The legacy of the Great Patriotic War still resounds loudly in Russia. In today’s aggressive politics, Putin’s crew is skilfully using this in order to gain support in a small town that came to symbolise the victory over fascism.
Nothing interesting happens in the small town of Yelnya on Russia’s western edge. The locals are leaving en masse and those who stay have few joys in life. One is the victory over fascism. At the start of the war Stalin allowed the town be symbolically freed – at the cost of enormous loss of life – so as to inspire hope in his people and strengthen the spirit of heroism. Emerging documentarist Dmitry Bogolubov’s personally tinged film tracks two local patriots and their families for three years. Teen-age Masha attends nationalist meetings, singing the praises of long-dead fallen heroes, ageing Sergei digs up their bones and secretly dreams of a change in the situation. Through them the film shows how the unhealed wartime trauma infiltrates generations, forming the social life of ordinary Russians and, with the help of political propaganda, gradually changes into hate towards the current “fascist” West.
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