Five Reasons to Watch Oscar-nominated Russian Movie Loose Fists

Kira Kovalenko’s intense drama, set in the Russian Caucasus, paints a vitriolic portrait of family relationships.

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Loose Fists was selected to represent Russia at the 2022 Oscars in the Best International Film category. The film is filled with suspense, despair and pain. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

A film that highlights the universal problem of overprotection

Zaour, an elderly man, is an uncompromising father who demands total obedience 24/7. He has three grown children who are forced to adjust to their father’s relentless overprotection. The patriarchal family lives in the village of Mizour, perched in the mountains of North Ossetia in Russia, where for generations the young have obeyed the elders and the women have obeyed the men. But times have changed and so have people and their world views. At the first opportunity, Zaur’s eldest son Akim fled to the nearest large town, Rostov-on-Don, in search of work.

His younger brother, Dakko, is still a carefree teenager who his father forbids from going to school. Zaour’s charming daughter, Ada, lives in anxiety and fear. Her place is at home, as the saying goes, and housework is destined to remain Ada’s sole responsibility forever. The smothering love of her father, a control-loving maniac who locks up his two children and forbids Ada from having her hair down, let alone putting on perfume, is literally devastating. Ada works as a saleswoman in a small store, but Zaour hides his passport so that his daughter can stay with him at all costs. He doesn’t even want the poor creature to undergo much needed surgery (Ada has bladder control issues and constant health concerns). One can only guess why her father is against surgery, out of sheer selfishness or, perhaps, because the medical procedure is deemed too intimate for a young single Caucasian woman.

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Unlike Mephistopheles, Ada’s father-tyrant makes “Part of that force which eternally wills evil, and which eternally accomplishes good”. And yet, Ada’s compassionate heart remains tied to this bossy man. What Ada is experiencing is close to Stockholm syndrome. His inner problems and fears run so deep that the mere prospect of possible freedom horrifies him.

>>> The Ossetians, a bastion of creativity and resilience in the Caucasus

A Beslan survivor as the main character

As Ada plans to escape her father’s iron grip, we find out one step further that her family moved to Mizour after the Beslan school tragedy. It turns out that Ada, a survivor of the horrific attack, has scars all over her body. The bloodiest terrorist attack in Russian history, which took place in Beslan, a small town in the Republic of North Ossetia, in September 2004, claimed the lives of more than 330 people, including 186 children. Kira Kovalenko’s film brilliantly shows a character whose physical and mental scars from the tragedy will never heal.

Non-professional actors speaking in the Ossetian language

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It is common knowledge that Russia is a multicultural country, populated by more than 190 ethnicities. Over 100 languages ​​and dialects are used across the country. To underline this diversity, Kira Kovalenko decided to swim against the tide and make a Russian film in the Ossetian language. In addition, Kovalenko, very demanding on the set, wanted to bring absolute authenticity to the scenes, and therefore mainly used non-professional actors. Ada’s two brothers are (brilliantly) played by young guys who have no acting experience. Ada (Milana Agouzarova) and her authoritarian father (Alik Karaïev) are the only professional actors, and their talent is not a shadow of a doubt.

Directed by a rising star of Russian cinema

Kira Kovalenko, 31, is a student of the director of Russian Ark, Alexandre Sokourov, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Film Academy in 2017.

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With her red hair and stunning looks, Kira Kovalenko could have become a star of the big screen herself. A rebel at heart, she nevertheless chooses a different and tortuous path. Born in the city of Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria in the Russian Caucasus, she never really considered becoming a director. Kira first went to Moscow to work as a web designer, but soon realized that was not her cup of tea. So she returned to Nalchik and enrolled in film classes with Alexander Sokurov, one of the most important filmmakers living today. This is where his love for cinema was revealed.

Like another famous student of Sokurov, Kantemir Balagov (who recently completed work on the pilot episode of HBO’s adaptation of the survival horror video game The Last of Us), Kovalenko has a taste for unconventional characters and sensitive subjects. Loose Fists is his second feature film, after Sofichka from 2016, shot in the Abkhaz language and based on a book by Fazil Iskander.

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Critically acclaimed and acclaimed in Cannes

Produced by Alexander Rodniansky, a big name in the Russian film industry, Loose Fists had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. This small film with universal appeal won over the jury and became the first Russian film in history to win the Un certain regard prize at Cannes.

Kovalenko’s film premiered at the 59th New York Film Festival, alongside films by renowned directors such as Todd Haynes, Bruno Dumont and Paul Verhoeven.

Loose Fists also represented Russia at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the 69th San Sebastian Film Festival.

Addressing the absence of freedom and co-dependence, Loose Fists is not intended to entertain audiences, instead plunging viewers into a stifling atmosphere of despair. Why, you will ask? To defend the most vulnerable among us, perhaps. Kovalenko’s unhurried, humane storytelling style works both emotionally and spiritually, making sensitive topics accessible to audiences no matter where they are. The young director tells her story without the slightest hint of morality, which is not the least of its merits.

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Five Reasons to Watch Oscar-nominated Russian Movie Loose Fists