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CLOUD HEAVEN

Russia, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Nikolai Dostal

There are no food queues in Cloud Heaven; no demonstrations against a tyrannical despot, nor even the slightest hint of a 'people-power' coup. The Russia of Cloud Heaven is far more mundane and hum-drum than that, Ifs a desolate suburb on the outskirts of Moscow on a drab, despondent Sunday There's nowhere to go, nothing to do, the only topic of conversa­tion, if one could be bothered, is the weather Its the kind of place where the question, 'Have you something new to tell me'' amounts to a threat.

When the happy-go-lucky, innocent Kolya (Andrei Zhigalov) is confronted with that impossible question he decides to call the bluff. Fiction is in short-supply in these parts, and before long, Kolya's 'announcement' has seized the impoverished imaginations of the close-knit community. Suddenly, the local babushkas will deign to greet Kolya, his neigh­bours want to pay him a visit, and the whole town buzzes with new-found excitement.

Kolya's predicament is a pointed metaphor of the stagnation of contemporary Russian society The script is filled with grim memen­toes of the siege mentality deeply entrenched into Soviet life. But there's more Cloud Heaven resonates with mythic, existential grandeur. In a spirit closer to Tati than any contemporary filmmaker, director Nikolai Dostal traces Kolya's graduation from 'simple fool' to 'prophet/, from fellow sufferer to hero, with an ease that is as simple as it is sublime.

Barely seen on the international festival circuit (no doubt due to circumstances at home), this is a small gem that nearly got away. Thankfully, it didn't. '

-Paul Kalina

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