Tatyana Chistova
Russia / Poland, 2016, 63 min

DOK Leipzig

These are the stories and trials of four young men who decided that to them “pacifism” is not a swearword. But this conviction means they are swimming against the tide of a thoroughly re-militarised society which has been forging men of steel for years now. Conscientious objection is listed in section 328 of Russian criminal law.

Shy Roman is well-briefed and tries his luck with great idols like Leo Tolstoy and Albert Einstein, which only earns him a reputation as a “pseudo-Dostoyevsky”, though. With Viktor, the draft board wonder whether he’s under their jurisdiction at all (“Boy or girl?”) and then vote – much to the annoyance of some bigwigs – for alternative service. This is where the story takes an incredibly funny turn, because he is assigned to the woman veterans’ dance company “Sudarushka”. However, Lyosha, a solitaire and determined opponent of the Ukraine war, and Johnny, professional protester with a remarkable rhetorical talent, are denied this kind of kitsch ending.

And yet we may raise our hopes along with them and this film – despite the basic bitterness provoked by all this: because anyone who imagined that political repression makes us braindead and mute is taught better by Chistova’s unsubdued look behind the scenes of collective opinion and mood making.

(Barbara Wurm, DOK Leipzig)