Tuškanac Cinema / Wednesday, 17 May / 7 pm


Sweden, Ukraine, Norway, 2023, 92'
Director: Alexander Mihalkovich, Hanna Badziaka · Screenplay: Alexander Mihalkovich, Hanna Badziaka · Photography: Siarhiej Kanaplianik · Editing: Katiia Vushnya, Jakub Bastkowski, Jerzy Poniatowski · Production: Mario Adamson, Ashley Smith, Alexander Mihalkovich, Anita Norfolk – Sisyfos Film Production, Voka Films, Folk Film

By combining personal and professional perspectives, directors Alexander Mihalkovich and Hanna Badziaka investigate the causes and consequences of a decade-long practice of violent abuse, torture and murder enforced on junior Belarus military conscripts as means of control. When young Nikita in 2020 applies for compulsory military service, he becomes part of the tradition affecting many generations, which in fact hides a murderous secret of the Post-Soviet Belarus – the so-called Dedovshchina* (Russian “дедовщина”), that allegedly turns boys into men, while in fact it creates a generational trauma that is deeply entrenched in Belarus culture and identity. Svetlana goes through this traumatic reality every day – her son’s lifeless body was found hanged in a military base, as the result of dedovshchina, with the murderers’ identity still veiled in mystery. In a land where sons are expendable, and instruments of control are in the wrong hands, mothers become tireless fighters against the grim status quo – instead of homeland that identifies with the nation, and fatherland drenched in ideology of land and blood, they call for a motherland, that would be based on different principles – freedom, solidarity and above all, peace.

Nikita’s and Svetlana’s story takes place inside carefully structured frames that record protesters’ anger directed at state violence entrenched in dedovshchina, spilling over the streets of Belarus towns. Badziaka and Mihalkovich capture the turbulent panorama of the land through real experiences of the mothers and new conscripts intertwining with silenced voices of former conscripts, whose perturbed testimonies were taken from letters they had sent home. A stripped down direction uses a palette of dimmed colours and ominous, chilly atmosphere in order to depict the tension of oppression. This multi-layered portrait of the homeland that demands to be defended 24/7 would be fascinating even if there wasn’t an ongoing conflict in the region, which only adds to its urgency. (DP)

* Dedovshchina is a brutal (practically prison-like) control and authority enforced by older soldiers on junior conscripts (which can, aside from daily humiliation, create a serious and life-long psychopathology) stemming from a related tradition in the Soviet army, practiced by former convicts who brought codes of behaviour typical for criminal milieu into the military.

Awards and festivals: 

CPH:DOX (2023) – world premiere, DOX: Award Competition (main prize); goEast Film Festival (2023) – FIPRESCI Award; One World Prague (2023)

Alexander Mihalkovich is a Belarusian-Ukrainian director and producer. He graduated with a PhD in Library Science and an MA in Film Directing at DocNomads international study program. After creating several short documentary and experimental films, he made his debut feature film My Granny from Mars. It had successful theatrical release in Ukraine and has been selected at numerous international film festivals, including DOK.fest München 2019, Beldocs Belgrade 2019, Sarajevo IFF DocuTalents Award 2018, Jihlava IDFF 2018, Eastern Neighbours Film Festival 2019 (opening film).

Hanna Badziaka is a director with extensive experience in journalism. She graduated in Philology at the Belarusian State University. She started her career as a video-journalist for independent online media, and later, for the only independent Belarus TV channel. After acquiring vast experience in creating in-depth video reports, she got interested in documentary filmmaking. She participated in creating several documentaries and worked as a director and screenwriter for TV projects and short documentaries. Motherland, which she co-directed, is her first feature documentary.