Komsomolsk mon amour
Thomas Lahusen, Tracy McDonald, and Alexander Gershtein
Digital video; color & b/w; 55 min.; Russian & English subtitles, Canada, 2007.
A film about the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East, its history and present-day struggles, seen through the eyes of young people, old Communists, former labor-camp prisoners, and the local avant-garde theater KnAM, performing a “slow reading” of Dostoevsky’s Notebooks. The film is based on footage shot in 2004, 2005, and 2006 and excerpts of Soviet features and archival footage. Born in 1932 and located at the “edge of civilization,” Komsomolsk is still a city largely closed to foreigners. A major site of the Soviet Gulag, it is also the home of one of the most important hubs of the Russian military-industrial complex. Telling a highly unusual story of survival and hope in the harsh conditions of post-Soviet Russia, the film also innovates in the clash and rhythm of its images. Views of the majestic Amur River alternate with the grey and rectilinear alleys of the socialist city and its industrial landscape. Teenagers practice break dancing and motocross in front of pompous monuments to the glory of the city’s first builders. Old Communists as well as former prisoners remember their heroic youth, and inspired artists share a worldview where innovation and Sovietness coexist in an eerie proximity.
SCREENINGS & AWARDS
Utopia Film Festival, Greenbelt, USA (October 2007)
DOK Leipzig 2007 (DOK Market)
Globians world & culture documentary film festival, Potsdam, Germany (2008)
A letter from the Far East:
The film about Komsomolsk is, without a doubt, of great interest, especially for the western viewer, for whom such a Soviet city in the Far East is absolutely exotic. In the film there is both the history and the philosophy connected to a generation. The talented young people of the theater bring joy by their presence on the screen, especially against the background of wild Russian capitalism where all of value is confused and morality itself becomes scarce. Even in the contradictory history of Komsomolsk, there is something that is missing today, and that is the romantic idea, which filled life with a special significance. I must confess that your film even raised in me a kind of nostalgia, not for the Soviet regime, but for a certain condition of the soul, a romantic creation that somehow disappeared along with socialism. I, by no means, want to go back, to the “shining past,” but I am saddened by much that sickens me in contemporary Russia…
Elena Aurilene, Khabarovsk, June 2008