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Documentary Film
30 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Jaroslav Kamienski, Belsat TV
Victor Asliuk
Ivan Hancharuk
Victor Asliuk
Victor Asliuk
World War II – also known as the Great Patriotic War – is far from over, especially in the Soviet Union’s successor states, as the passion for grandiose “Victory Day” celebrations proves. Usually a whole album of mythological images is evoked, with the “heroic courage” motif so dominant that there is little room left for actual remembrance, compassion or coming to terms with the past. “Zemlya” takes the opposite path. With the persistence and visual intensity that made Victor Asliuk one of the outstanding documentarians of post-Soviet history, the Byelorussian focuses on the protracted search for buried soldiers’ bodies – palpable relics of the former battle fields. Volunteers from all corners of Russia, often whole families, search the forests for bone fragments. They dig them (the unburied) up to bury them again. A seemingly absurd, ghostly cycle, observed with stoic calm – which also rules when Asliuk casually interweaves these scenes with unique archival footage of the winter war. The nameless dead become eerily real – young men connected through the earth with their descendants, who are as young as they once were and confronted with death for the first time. Even if they sometimes play at war in the breaks, the dominant feeling is reverence. A film that connects the past of a lost future with the present.

– Barbara Wurm