During these three months, Belarusian cinema on both sides of the border developed an unexpectedly rich activity, and a slight déjà vu arose, as if the action is taking place in 2019 (and this is about the fact that fundamentally new solutions for new challenges in our cinema did not appear).
February began with the announcement of the creation of the Belarusian Independent Film Academy — and soon it was presented at the Berlinale
. A visit to the Berlinale was a turning point for our cinema every year. On the one hand, pride and the promise of great prospects when it came to independent filmmakers. On the other hand, there is indignation about the fact that the state does not care about representation at the festival. After a brief period of nervousness, everything returned to its place.
Having become in 2021 a symbolic promise of an alternative future "soon", the Berlinale played this role well this year. The presentation of the independent film academy – a beautiful symbolic step of separation from the banned co-aggressor state – once again promises that the scattered Belarusian cinema will have unimaginable prospects. As evidence, ten film projects were presented, which caused a little teacher's approval at the Berlinale, and in the film community — quiet questioning about the selection and the shindig format. Let's remember this combination: external approval and internal discord. We will have to live with it as before. The community is not in a hurry to become a unity yet, but is still fighting for loyalty.
Around the same time, the reconstructed "cinema concert hall" was also symbolically opened
in Astraviec, and later officials with Natalla Kačanava at the head of a cheerful group visited
the restored "Belarus" cinema in Stoŭbcy. And they reawakened the old staleness: the less actual cinema remains in cinemas, the more happily the officials remember that the most important, most loyal of the arts is just that.
As if in response, independent filmmakers presented an equally symbolic online platform of independent Belarusian cinema, Vodblisk
. It has excellent chances to become an online ghetto of Belarusian cinema, because it arose out of a need that has been insoluble for years: Belarusian cinema is the cinema that everyone creates and no one can watch.Vodblisk
's gesture regarding the free annual subscription for the residents of Belarus is intended to testify to a symbolic stay in the homeland. While the Ministry of Culture purges the film distribution within the country, the online platform can fulfill its small mission "we are the real deal in the absence of alternatives", although obviously, its main task is to preserve the presence (and the illusion of unity) of independent filmmakers as such. Just create a place where they remain visible.
Regarding the purge: in the spring, the last bastion of the decentralized festival movement fell — the "Unfiltered Cinema" film festival. A couple of days before the start, it was cancelled
with a phone call from the Ministry of Culture. Just like the "Listapad"
film festival in November 2020.
Let's leave it to the voices over the phone to explain their decisions, because what is more important is that horizontal connections have long been working much better than vertical ones. And the screenings of "Unfiltered Cinema", even in the format of a film lecture, still took place
in Homieĺ. At the time of writing this text, the screenings were also planned
in Viciebsk. And in Minsk, they were cancelled
with a new phone call. In Vilnius, they showed
the whole small Belarusian programme — through which, let's assume, the festival in Minsk was cancelled.
The winner, by the way, is the same one as at last year's "Bulbamovie" festival — Juryj Siamaška's film "Trashhead". It testified that artisanal cinema and its viewers are still guided by conservative ideas about authorship — they prefer narrative, "artificial" cinema. That is, "with an idea", quite detached from reality, and sometimes completely escapist, with a clear "philosopher's edge". What's amusing and encouraging here is that for a few moments in this well-mannered film with well-mannered supernatural elements the shadow of Jan Švankmajer