Siberia In A Summer Dress

In association with the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival

Siberia in a Summer Dress

Siberia in a Summer Dress is a thirteen minute short exploring one of the many atrocities of the Second World War: the mass deportation of Bessarabians and other native people to Siberia in 1941, following the occupation of Bessarabia (now mostly the Republic of Moldova and a bit of Ukraine) by the Red Army and Soviet political police.

Rather than tackle the full scale of this, director Bogdan Stefan tells the story of just one man: Alexei Lungu, who is witness to the deportation of two fellow citizens – Domnica and Dionisie Olaru – whose fate is unknown even fifty five years later. As the synopsis states: “their house was demolished. There is no one left of their family.” The only recount of what happened to them was through Alexei, and is now passed into this film.

This is a very moving film. There is no music as the memory is being told, and it leaves a very tense, sad and solemn atmosphere. Despite the fact that there is no actual film of the event, the imagination fills the gap with the help of a potter. As the story unfolds, the potter quietly creates models with clay which relate to the story.

Stefan’s work sheds much needed light on one of the many atrocities of the Second World War; one that will probably be relatively unknown to the majority of us in Britain. As the story ends, the film informs the audience that over 450,000 Bessarabian’s were deported by the Red Army, the fates of many of them unknown. Thus, this film is important as it tells the firsthand account of this terrible event through the eyes of Alexei, and is something that should be seen.

Siberia in a Summer Dress is a five out of five: a memorable film about a tragic atrocity that is too huge to imagine overall, but still brings it to a human, emotive and connectable level.

[David O’Ryan]

Then Then Then

Over black and white video footage of people protesting on American streets, graffiti saying ‘Panther Power!!!’ and hands forming peace signs, a voice says: “People are beginning to understand that they have a right to expect their government to serve them. And when they find out it doesn’t, they also have the right to do something about it.” Then, Then, Then is a mediation on four scenes of dissent in the period between 1968 – 1972 in the United States, from a black power movement past a demand for rights for native Americans to anti-Vietnam protests and actions.

Without explicitly saying so, this documentary by Daniel Schioler restates the importance of documentation, whether by filming, photographing or writing about something. Many of the shots are filmed in the middle of a crowd of protesters, making the viewer feel part of that event 45 years later. However, it doesn’t have the result of completely trapping the audience in the world of the film, perhaps because of the lack of strong connections between the four parts of the documentary or the impossibility to hear the speeches made by protesters or important figures. Although this might have been done intentionally, to show that collective actions matter more than words of the individual, it’s a shame anyway.

The mesmerising, often rhythmic music in combination with the passion of the people creates a powerful whole, even if not all the protests featured had the sought-after results. A quote of a native American, one of those occupying Alcatraz Island for 19 months, seems to capture the true spirit of the film. “There is no such thing as defeat – you just bandage your bruises and stand up again.”

[Aike Jansen]

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