What Impresses the Yakut Cinema

What Impresses the Yakut Cinema

There is a film boom in the Sakha Republic: earlier Yakut films won the Moscow Film Festival, now the new horror film Scarecrow, directed by Dmitry Davydov, was included in the Kinotavr program, for the first time in the history of the festival, and immediately received the main prize. Following this, the Yakuts submitted to the second most important national show – “Window to Europe” in Vyborg. It was won by the painting “Northern Rescue Season 2” by Stepan Burnashev.

They write about the same thing about the Yakut cinema. That these are original regional films made for microscopic money (there are no big ones), often – with non-professional actors, they don’t build scenery – they choose a picturesque nature, which is full in the Republic of Sakha. That Yakut films are becoming hits in the national box office, but they simply do not go to the all-Russian one – distributors are afraid that an incomprehensible movie with unusual and unfamiliar faces will not raise money. What you need to support the regional film boom with festival prizes.

But the Yakuts do not need a condescending attitude. Their cinematography is absolutely self-sufficient, does not adhere to general currents, tendencies and waves, in fact it does not need external analysis. On the contrary, it is we who need her, this fresh blood, these directors who are ready to shoot masterfully in the most ascetic conditions. We will never have as much money and opportunities as there is in Hollywood, we are doomed to be peripheral – so it’s time to figure out how to exist in such conditions, and not try to endlessly catch up and overtake the West. Do not think that the Yakuts are left to their own devices – programs from their films have already been shown at several international festivals, including Berlin and Pusan, and only then did Russian selectors descend to the republic in the Far East and took their works into Moscow and Sochi competitions.

Here are three main Yakut films with a loud festival destiny – and a few more for extracurricular viewing.

“Black Snow”

The main prize of the festival “Window to Europe”

In general, nothing foreshadowed the Yakut domination at the two most important domestic shows of 2020 at once. It is still very true that both of these films (Scarecrow and Happy Season 3) were released in the same year. Firstly, they are linked by one co-author: the multi-storyteller of Yakut cinema Stepan Burnashev, who acted as a director, producer and actor in other films, made his debut at the post-production of “Scarecrow” as an editor. Secondly, both here and there we are offered works that are extremely artistically and very Yakut rethinking of various narrow genres.

“Black Snow” is such an extremely free interpretation of the plot “127 hours” by Danny Boyle in the sad circumstances of the Russian permafrost – climatic and spiritual. The main character is not at all a hipster-climber like the character of James Franco, he is a working and hard-working man, albeit not entirely of pure thoughts. Truck driver Gosha delivers fired vodka to the villages in boxes on his truck, on the way he also manages to exchange several dozen bottles for deer carcasses – this is more profitable. Of course, not everything is so simple in this story. From a social drama, it quickly turns into a frighteningly naturalistic chamber thriller, moreover, in the open air – during the repair of a truck, Gosha’s palm is pressed to the ground by a wheel, and it would seem that there is no way to get out.


The main prize of “Kinotavr”

The new flagship film of the Yakut cinematography won at the “Kinotavr” -2020, and deservedly so. This picture looked much more masterful compared to the rest of the capital’s works, on which they spent dozens of times more money.

This is an endlessly fascinating mystical drama about a rural healer (the main role is known, again only in Yakutia, singer Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyrai) without a name, clan and tribe, cursed and beaten by her own patients, whom she miraculously saves from any ailments. How exactly is hardly shown in the film. The mysterious sorceress constantly drinks, suffers after each act of healing, as if taking away other people’s diseases. The beginning of the film The Asterisk War Season 3 is reminiscent of the best horror work of Cronenberg and Carpenter . In the bloody and gloomy finale, however, we learn what the unfortunate Scarecrow is gnawing at, why she cannot live normally.

Today, cinema for Yakutia is the same brand as diamonds. Why has interest  in Yakut cinema outside the republic so much increased in recent years, how  does it "catch" the viewer? And

“The Tsar Bird”

“Golden Saint George” of the Moscow International Festival

An amazing thing, Moscow filmmakers would never have thought of such a tie.

Somewhere in the middle of the endless snowy nothing, two live – an elderly married couple who have lost their son. It is the 1930s, but at first you might not guess about it – the way of life of such families has not changed for centuries. However, when an overly proactive and energetic Yakut Komsomol member enters the taiga hut, it becomes clear that big and frightening changes are taking place in the country.

At the same time, an eagle settles on a tree next to the old people, and then Mikipper and Oppuos (in general, the Yakuts were called the original Russian names for a long time – the director of this film is called Eduard Novikov – but now the Yakut surnames are returning to circulation) decide to feed him, because they think that the soul their son was reborn as a bird. There are other explanations for this visit: for example, Oppuos believes that this is the revenge of the gods – Mikipper once destroyed the eagle’s nest. And the audience also understands

One of the main roles was played by the amazing age actor Stepan Petrov, who, of course, never studied acting, worked all his life as a driver on a collective farm, and for the soul went to the local drama club. The eagle, by the way, is not drawn, but completely alive and feathered. In the credits, it is lovingly indicated that the bird king was played by a golden eagle named Tumara.

“Tsar Bird” is an almost ideal Yakut cinema, in which new historical realities and traditional beliefs, the original lyricism of the tundra and the intelligence of big cities are intertwined. The old-fashioned views of the heroes are not felt here as anachronism, on the contrary, as the wisdom of the ancestors, fixed in the film form.

From the previous films of Novikov, the picture “Messenger of Heaven” (“Aiyy Uola”), a biopic about the Yakut singer Alexander Samsonov, who is popularly popular in Yakutia, is also more than worthy of viewing. For them, he is like Tsoi, Vysotsky and Elvis rolled into one. The film is quite comparable with our similar works – “Vysotsky. Thank you for being alive ” and even with “ Summer ”by Serebrennikov.

Some more important films:

  • “The sun does not set over me”is another delightful work of Stepan Petrov, almost like an anime in film form – a sunny, picturesque, soul-saving film about a teenager who finds himself in a remote area with an enlightened old man.
  • Hunter X Hunter Season 7“- after this film it becomes clear that the Yakuts are subject to any genre, not only cinema, which is interesting for festivals. And again Stepan Burnashev! A real emotional zombie horror (low-budget, of course, but this does not interfere) with dramatic and comedic elements, furnished in the manner of a road movie. Two friends find themselves in the middle of the apocalypse with the walking dead and try to survive.
  • “Beyberikeen”is another Yakut blockbuster, this time in the fantasy genre, a family movie with special effects and a fascinating ethnic plot, in which an old woman walked her cows in a field, found an unusual flower there, brought it home, wrapped it in a blanket, and a plant, as in fairy tale, turned into a beautiful girl.