Katerina Suvorova, KZ/GE 2016, 88'
World Premiere
Saturday August 6th, 11.00, Cinema Teatro Kursaal
Sunday August 7th, 18.30, L'altra Sala

en / it / de / fr

Nearly twice as large as Switzerland, the Aral Sea was still among the four largest ones on the planet in 1960. Unfortunately, overreliance on its tributaries Amu Darya and Sry Daria for agriculture has dried it up. Actually, it’s exactly what plans made by the former USSR had predicted, since the resulting marshes were to be used for rice culture. Now only 17,000 km², the Aral Sea is but a big pond. The boats that had previously played an important role in the region’s economic prosperity now lie still in the sand like beached whales. The desert of salt that has replaced it is a hostile, unusable land. And yet not everybody has given up – fishermen, farmers, biologists, and even a few pirates still believe the sea can rise again. They all fight for a better tomorrow.

Kazakh director Katerina Suvorova, who grew up in Almaty, only knew of the historical and natural tragedy of her country through the media. She really discovered the truth only when working on her documentary. When she got there, she found a place that comes straight out of a post-apocalyptic story, as she describes it herself. It is a hostile, polluted wasteland that resembles the setting of “Mad Max”. The people who live there have repurposed the old ships and fight against the mills like modern Don Quixotes. Some of them even try to reclaim small patches of land. The will of the people seems to be the only resource that hasn’t run dry. In the grey, dusty desert, the blue hull of the boats shines like a glimmer of hope.

The filmmaker endeavours to look sympathetically at the little, seemingly unimportant details she stumbles upon during her investigation, and that can all be seen as the buds of a plant which is striving to be reborn. Just like Gianfranco Rosi’s acclaimed documentary “Sacro GRA”, Suvorova’s film is all about conveying meaning through specific settings – a break at work between colleagues, a chimney that doesn’t fit through the gate, or even the tanned and wrinkled face of a farmer. In the end, Eugen Schlegel’s mesmerizing camera work reveals that the beauty of life can be found beneath each and every stone we choose to turn.

Marco Zucchi