Tania and Nastia are a close-knit mother and daughter in Minsk, Belarus,
whose relationship begins to suffer when each becomes romantically attached to a man the other despises. Tania is the daughter of a famous Russian actress, but the artistic aristocracy of the old regime holds no sway in contemporary Belarus and her family must now scramble to make ends meet like everyone else in the shaky new economy.
Tania hates Slava, a shifty married shyster who's convinced that his mysterious schemes to make money are the surest way to succeed in a post-Soviet era where "nouveaux riches" have replaced "People's Artists" in the hierarchy of Belarussian social status. And Nastia's loathing for her stepfather Igor, a bearded, arty, out-of-work actor-poet with a guitar on his back, has only grown since she first hated him as a child. The family feud culminates in the days preceeding Nastia's wedding when Igor confronts the bride, forcing Tania to choose between him and her daughter.
Original Title: Ploshad Pobedi
Country of Origin: United States
Country of Cooproduction: Belarus
Completion Year: 2002
Running Time: 92
Language: Russian & English/English subtitles
Director: Liza Davitch
Producer: Liza Davitch
Editor: Liza Davitch
Videographer: Liza Davitch
Original Score: Vladimir Kondrusevich
ARTISTS OF THE YEAR: Liza Davitch
by SHERYL MOUSLEY, Curator of film/video at Walker Art Center
What victory is being honored in Victory Square, in the city of Minsk, Belarus? Certainly this place was named in celebration of some important event. In the '50s, beautiful trees--cherry, walnut, oak--were planted by a famous actress, Galina Makarova, who lived there until her death. Now Makarova's apartment is the cramped home of her daughter Nadia and 22-year-old granddaughter Nastia: Their close-knit relationship is falling apart as each becomes romantically attached to a man whom the other despises.
This is the setting of Liza Davitch's documentary Victory Square, a film whose intertwining narratives are full of complications and misunderstandings as the parent/child roles keep switching. With all the intrigue of a carefully conceived drama, Davitch's film shows that a documentarian can be the storyteller of our times. Combining patient observation of the characters, images of Belarus landscapes, archival news footage, and scenes from Makarova's acting career, the movie and its tale of family feud reflect a world that's struggling to cope with the swirling changes brought on by the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Davitch was recognized in the mid-'90s by the Student Academy Awards for the short films she made while she was a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. After graduation, and with the help of a Fulbright scholarship to study in Poland (along with grants from the Jerome Foundation and Minnesota Arts Board), Davitch made her way to Minsk. She spent half of each of the past five years there, dedicating herself to producing Victory Square. She finished the film in April of this year--just in time to screen it at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, where it won the hearts of the audience, and an award for Best Documentary. Now, after additional screenings in Montreal and Amsterdam, the film is continuing to tour the international festival circuit. The victory in all of this is that Davitch's perseverance, her tenacity in taking on a film of such complexity has resulted in a film that's simply beautiful.
Sheryl Mousley is associate curator of film/video at Walker Art Center.
By EDDIE COCKRELL
Incisive material triumphs over no-budget video lensing in docu "Victory
Square," which tells in compelling and dramatic detail the dynamics of an
ongoing Belarusian family feud. Global familiarity with generational
squabbling marks this as fest-friendly fare worldwide, with considerable
tube play more likely than theatrical conquests.
In a cramped flat on the eponymous Minsk square, late-40s mom Tania frets forcefully over young adult daughter Nastia's serious relationship with
married hustler Slava. In the precarious post-Soviet economy, Slava has lots of irons in the fire, few of which seem to be legal. Nastia has issues with her mother as well, bitterly criticizing Tania for taking up once more with self-absorbed actor-poet Igor, the stepfather she loathed as a child.
Themother-daughter bond alternates mercurially between tenderness and
hostility, breaking only when Nastia, who eventually marries Slava, joins
him in Israel to start a new life. Tech package is functional, with pale and
often grainy video images massaged considerably by Davitch's shrewd editing.
Per helmer, original scripted approach was abandoned in favor of bracingly intimate docu footage, 30 hours of which was captured over five years.