FREEDOM IS PARADISE (1989) [Feature]

USSR (MIFF 1990 )
Director: Sergei Bodrow

LIKE MANY of the Gorbachev era films, Freedom is Paradise poses some trenchant social criticism, but what distinguishes it from many others is the quiet power of its emotional identification with the resilient, wary child at its centre. Thirteen-year-old Sasha, whose mother is dead and whose father is in prison camp, lives in a boarding school The bored and cynical staff have clearly consigned their charges to the criminal classes there's little to distinguish the establishment from a prison With his shaved head, black leather jacket and tight-lipped sullen demeanor, Sasha's life already seems circumscribed by their miserable expectations But it may not be, for the boy repeatedly runs away and his little escapes give us some glimpse of hope No matter how unwelcoming the world outside proves to be, it's always potentially better than the life he knows in the institution On one escape, Sasha quite fortuitously learns the whereabouts of his father, and much of the film is devoted to his long trek to find him The meeting at the end of this 'adventure' is rigorously unsentimental as everything in the film, but it packs a forceful punch. Wordsworth's "The child is father of the man" might be a suitable text for this film Sergei Bodrow's taut, rivetting work wrings rich and ironic variations on that theme - (BG)

"Alternating a gritty documentary style with poetic lyricism, Bodrow evocatively captures a boy's fierce capacity to dream As Sasha, Volodya Kozyrev (himself a former reform school inmate) conveys the complexity of childhood in a way too rarely seen At a time when grand themes and great events dominate Soviet cinema, this Grand Prize winner at Montreal addresses with quiet eloquence the sad irony of children dwelling on the margin " - (LT)

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