I have to apologize (as I did many times before) for not being able to update this blog in a timely manner, but my journey through the Russian countryside brought me to some completely abandoned places with almost zero internet coverage.
So briefly let me tell you where I am now in my documentary work. “Don’t cry for your hair when they cut your head off” (this is a very popular Russian saying) is going to be at least 40 minutes long no narration film about the hair collecting business in Russia. Although I want it to be a broader story about life and experiences of the three independent characters, all of whom are young Russian women.
My first heroine is Lera Nikolaeva, a nurse. She has an extraordinary long and beautiful braid that she is now going to sell to support her family. She already went through this 6 years ago when her ailing grandfather got into a road accident with another car, which belonged to a local businessman. By selling her hair Lera earned $200 to help resolve this situation.
Second character’s name is Alya Telenkova. She is a former student at one of the most prestigious universities in Moscow, a daughter of the rich parents. Some time ago she suddenly decided to take monastic vow and left her family. Alya’s parents and her former boyfriend (a very influential and rich businessman 38 years older than she) claimed that she lost sanity and was forcefully taken away by the monks. For the last 2 years Alya has to live in hiding. She still hopes that one day she will be allowed to become a nun. In the Orthodox Church that procedure typically starts with trimming the potential candidate’s hair, which is later going to be kept at the monastery until his death.
And finally here is Valya Romanova. A single mother, a teacher and political activist from “The Other Russia” — a left-wing political movement, which is fiercely opposing the current capitalist policies of the Russian elite. In an act of defiance Valya and her friend Polina have recently shaved their heads. In fact they did it to express support for the three “The Other Russia” activists, who were detained and then accused of orchestrating the December 2010 riots at Manejnaya Square in Moscow.
Right now I’m going back and forth through piles of footage that I brought with me. I’m also trying to keep track of what is happening to all the three girls. No words can express how thankful I am to them for their decision to take part in my project.
I wasn’t able to update this blog again due to the extremely slow Internet connection that I experienced in Russia. However now after I’m back to the broadband world, I can eventually fill some of the gaps. To do this let me share with you the trailer that I just finished working on. It says more about my journey than a dozen wordy post may say.
It took me 4 hours to get to Yukhnov from Moscow. I started at 5AM and reached the town at 9. The Kiev M3 highway is in relatively good shape but only until Kaluga, where you need to make a right onto the local road heading to the North. Thank God, I was driving my 4×4 Nissan Navara (Frontier), although at times the road with its sudden pitfalls and hollows made me really nervous. I did not have a repair kit, so even a minor accident would have left me completely stuck. Yukhnov turned out to be a typical Russian village, which is still called “town” because long time ago its population officially reached 5,000. Not sure if these 5,000 are still there though. Most of the streets are unpaved, the buildings are old and 2-3 storied, there is no centralized water-supply and women are still using outdoor water wells to get water and bring it home in buckets. Yukhnov is a remarkable place in the Russian history. Here the Napoleon troops regrouped to advance on Moscow and later retreated back to where they came from. Here the Germans fought a ferocious defensive battle in WWII which cost the Red Army 50,000 lives. The place is very picturesque and still uncivilized. After the collapse of the U.S.S.R. all the agricultural production stalled and the once thriving collective farms went bankrupt. Today there are only two major businesses in Yukhnov. One is a flax factory, and another — a hair factory I was in search of. I spent the whole day with the owner and director Alexey Kuznetsov, 34. He happened to be a very liberal minded guy who is used to being in the media spotlight. Alexey moved to Yukhnov 4 years ago with his family. He is a perfect example of the young Russian capitalist. Among his 80 employees 99% are women. The reason, as Kuznetsov explained it, is that all men in Yukhnov are hopeless alcoholics. This man-to-women or employer-to-employees relationship is a separate story, which has its own hidden drama. But I wasn’t able to intervene. First of all the girls seem scared for their jobs and though they definitely have a lot say, they most likely won’t do that. Secondly, I still need Kuznetsov’s assistance in my search for the hair sellers. So maybe I can get back to Yukhnov one day. Meanwhile here’s an overexposed screenshot of Kuznetsov showing me a hair extension worn by one of “his” girls.
From now on I will be posting from Russia where I am currently working on my final documentary. It’s going to be an exciting journey for two reasons. First of all Russia is on the verge of some serious political changes. Secondly, this time I’m going to be working completely on my own, which is a great challenge. I have a portable modem that should let me post even from some remote places. And I am sorry I won’t be able to unveil the core idea of my project for quite some time (at least until I see that I’m moving forward).
I’ll be shooting with this beautiful camera. Maybe I can post some pictures occasionally.
“The Soviet education was flawed because it focused primarily on raising young people as creators. Today we need to raise a qualified consumer, who is able to implement the results of creativity of the others”.
Russian Minister of Education
This is an insanely funny video. Robin turned out to be even uglier than I thought. Real queersish freakish jerk. Am I the only one who feels this was needed to make us love Batman more than we did? Although the signs and signals from Moscow show that the political fight is only intensifying.