Unclenching the Fists

Director Kira Kovalenko / 2021 / Russia

Winner of the 2021 Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes, this Russian drama from the producers of Beanpole travels to the dark heart of an unusual family.

In a small mining town nestled in the mountains of Russia’s North Ossetia, an overbearing father wields a suffocating influence over the lives of his children. His adult daughter, Ada, has been infantilised to the point where she wears a diaper, while her younger brother, Dakko, looks up to her in a needy way that suggests something untoward. When their older brother, Akim, returns from the neighbouring village where he now works, the family’s unspoken trauma unravels – and a desperate Ada plots her escape.

Produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov (Beanpole, MIFF 2019; Loveless, 2017; Elena, 2011), the second feature from Russian filmmaker Kira Kovalenko is a tale of troubling family secrets, with a menacing atmosphere amplified by its vertiginous, often stunning shots of a location rarely seen on the big screen. Taking home the Prix Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes, Unclenching the Fists is hotly tipped to be Kovalenko’s breakout film on the international stage.

“A dark slice of neorealism with a palpable sense of claustrophobia.” – The Wrap

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