Documentary Films | 2016 | 114 minutes
Stranger Says: This contemplative, slow-moving documentary focuses on members of an extended family who are located throughout Ukraine and Russia. It broods on the question of what nationality is, what it means to speak Ukrainian, what it means to “be” Ukrainian, and what it means when borders and political leaders change. When Putin brags on television on New Year’s Eve about Ukraine making the decision to “join” Russia after the annexation of Crimea, some family members angrily talk back to the screen. But the level of mundane detail overwhelms the significance of the larger political situation, and there are so many family members that it’s hard to follow who’s who. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
SIFF Says:In his newest film, director Vitaly Mansky crisscrosses Ukraine to explore the country’s society and culture following the 2014 Maidan Revolution. After his unflinching and controversial documentary Under the Sun (2015), in which he followed a North Korean family for a year as their daughter prepped to join the North Korean Children’s Union, Close Relations is a more personal look at his own family scattered among the remains of an imploding nation. Traveling through Ukraine, Lviv, Odessa, Donbass, and Sevastopol, Mansky seems to have relatives in every major city. He interviews his mother, aunts, uncles, and other family members about the atmosphere of the current dizzying political situation and how it effects their lives, wherever they may be located. With skill and raw emotional honesty, he reveals the internal crack in his family’s divided loyalties, and shows us the impressions these divisions make. Cinematographer Alexandra Ivanova’s camerawork catches the subtleties and homey details of each character’s environment, giving us a genuine, personal flavor of Mansky’s connections to his subjects. Close Relations chronicles a unique sort of family album, and revealing several lives that sustain as social constructs unravel.
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