At the IDFA International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, two films about the global and local problems of civilization were shown – “Paradise” by Alexander Abaturov and “On the Road” by Gianfranco Rosi. Andrey Plakhov talks about them.
The first film was produced by the French and shot by a director of Russian origin in the fire-torn subarctic forests of Yakutia in 2021. The very same time when climate change and extremely hot summers led to the burnout of record-breaking territories, and ash reached the North Pole for the first time in history. The action takes place in the village of Shologon, which receives practically no help from the center, since it is located on the border of the so-called zone of control. This term officially refers to remote or sparsely populated areas where authorities are not required to fight forest fires if the cost of extinguishing them exceeds the cost of the estimated damage. The indigenous people of the village rely primarily on their own strength. They gather a team of volunteers and go one on one with the fire. Resolute and fearless Vasya, an experienced fire extinguisher Pavel Arzhakov, the head of the village administration, blackened from misfortune, are the main characters of the film. her to the mythological picture of the opposition of people to rebellious nature. The very nature that gave birth to them, nourished them and was a prehistoric paradise for them. Now it exists only in the memories enshrined in folklore. In reality, man’s relationship with the natural world has reached a critical point of conflict. And this is obvious not only in overpopulated megacities, but also in the desert northern expanses of Yakutia, where, according to Greenpeace, about 90 percent of forest fires occur due to direct or indirect human fault.
The strength of “Paradise” is in its vivid visuality, which looks almost mystical in the scenes of the onset of hellfire, rushing animals, a child wandering across the field, in landscapes of a shade of crimson smoldering. The events of the fatal summer are framed by a prologue and an epilogue, where we see the same places in the midst of a frosty winter with its fishing rituals on ice. A little girl reads a prayer: “Tell me, Holy Mountain, can you see the whole Earth from here?” The locals call fire a dragon and shamanic spells cast it, knowing the ability of the flame to both warm and mortally burn. There is a kind of Zen approach to trials and disasters in these prayers and rituals. The cold northern calmness of men, the contagious laughter of women, and above all solidarity – this is what distinguishes the Yakuts and what gives the apocalyptic documentary canvas a bit of non-poster optimism.
Another source of optimism – or moral stoicism – offers Italian documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi in his new work On the Road. On the way – in airplanes, in open cars (without bulletproof protection), in the most problematic and hot spots of the planet – the main character of the film, Pope Francis, habitually stays. In nine years, he visited 53 countries on 37 trips. Archival materials are skillfully assembled with specially filmed footage, creating an impressive panoramic picture of a world torn apart by contradictions, full of cruelty and suffering, but not losing hope for the future.
The great traveler’s first destination is the island of Lampedusa , where Rosi filmed his film The Sea on Fire, echoing Luchino Visconti’s classic masterpiece The Earth Trembles. The topic was the tragic fate of migrants moving to Europe from Africa. Many of them die in the sea along the way. It was here, in Lampedusa, that Francis uttered his famous phrase: “The globalization of indifference has robbed us of the ability to cry.” the abode of Arab sheikhs, in war-torn Syria, or at the Israeli Wailing Wall, on the impoverished Liberty Island, or at the Mexican border wall, behind which lies the richest country in the world—he speaks of the same thing everywhere. About compassion and hope. The fact that you can lose freedom, but you can not lose human dignity. That one should not despair, thinking that everything is useless and that in life there will be “the same thing” – injustice and pain. Dad suddenly demonstrates a sense of humor: life is like a tango, only it seems that all movements are repeated, in fact this dance has its own purpose, its own plot and its own code. Such is the dance of life.
In addition to the talents of a politician and a psychologist (they were especially useful when meeting with Erdogan and Patriarch Kirill, in campaigns against sexual crimes in the Catholic elite), Francis demonstrates enviable resources empathy and humanity. And his emotional close-ups, which become the pictorial and semantic leitmotifs of the film, do not raise doubts about the heavy price given to Francis walking along this exhausting path.