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FREEZE, DIE, COME TO LIFE

USSR, 1990 (MIFF 1991)

Director: Vitali Kanevski

The resilience and resourcefulness of childhood defy enormous odds in this remarkable first film by 55-year-old Vitali Kanevski. With funding to shoot a ten minute film, Kanevski returned to the Soviet far east where he grew up, recruited locals to act as extras, found old film stock and shot an entire feature. It's not too difficult to believe that the secretive, determined and imaginative child we see in this film became the man who directed it - and won the Camera d'Or at the 1990 Cannes Festival.

The film is set at the end of the year in a grimy, ramshackle mining town virtually indistinguishable from the prison camp it abuts. As seen through children's eyes, this sordid environment is a grotesque adventure playground. The most disturbing grotesquerie is the wildy erratic behaviour of the grown-ups, driven out of their minds in this cold, wet hell on earth.

The film is essentially episodic with little plot beyond the escalating lawlessness of nine-year old Valerka's rebellious escapades. But it develops, like its protagonist, through his reluctant friendship with the enterprising Galiya, a slightly older, considerably smarter girl attracted by his apparent self-possession. In many ways this vivd, painful memoir seems like a grateful tribute, long nurtured in a battered heart, to the girl who saved his life. The vehemence and clarity of personal expression achieved in this film are daunting. (BG)

"You wait stoically, patiently for the rare, real thing... this ones for you.... A bitter love letter from the dead zone, the tough, tender Freeze, Die, Come to Life (from the name of a children's game similar to freeze tag) is a remarkable achievement. What Freeze Die tells us is that frozen hearts remain potentially sentient and, given the climate, may feel pain agin." - Georgia Brown Village Voice

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