Indie Shorts Awards Cannes

I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity. — Igor Stravinsky

Aleksandra (Sasha) Gavrilenko

Born in Yakutsk, republic of Sakha. The majority of my family tree were sent to Siberia during the beginning of the 20th century as political dissidents.
Being an artist for me means developing a humane approach. I believe that my audience won't. As the art of cinema develops our moral qualities and empathy.
I love showing young and rebellious characters. They desperately want to love and live a "beautiful life". They are ambitious although they are unlikely to survive. Some of them have not enough spirit, some of them just burden in the correctional colonies. They want to alter their destinies, as I dreamed, when I was growing up next to the Arctic Pole. I've chosen the pathway of art, so I feel obliged to share this feeling of hope with the audience.

Why was it important for you to portray the hard fate of these young prisoners and give them a voice through your film?
It was important for me to talk about the plight of prisoners because in daily life we don’t talk about it and people think that prisoners are in prison on merit. ”That kids are wild animals that need to be tamed”. We don’t think about what led them to this fate. But let’s look wider — the reality shows that anyone can go to prison. It is possible to be out of freedom, deservedly and undeservedly, due to a number of circumstances. And it seems that this unfreedom is supposed to educate and nurture a person who has ambitions to live. But this almost never happens. It is my duty as an artist to think about the fate of those whose life is an everyday chellenge. And to help them by highlighting the problem in a broader way. I immerse my characters in the world of fairy tales. They are like lost guests of the Wizard of Oz. This is the only place where they can be children, because they have lost their childhood.
How did you approach character development, particularly for Igor and his fellow escapees, to portray their emotions and motivations as they navigate the challenges of escaping and avoiding capture?
I wrote the character of Igor on the basis of myself, although it’s hard to imagine it now. Every author is a leader and leads his team somewhere, towards a goal that is not visible. To what’s going on in his head, and there are traits of schizophrenia in that, don’t you agree? As a teenager you are very impressionable, and when I was writing the script, I remembered images from books that I was very impressed by when I was Igor’s age. These are Raskolnikov, a character in a novel written by F. M. Dostoevsky, and the characters in novels by M. Y. Lermontov – The Hero of Our Time and Mtsyri. Ambitious, self-willed, with a strong inner conflict. That’s what Igor was supposed to be.
Lyosha plays a significant role in the film as a village boy who joins the escapees. Can you discuss the significance of his character and why did you decide to add this character to the group?
His companions are characters with qualities that reflect the personality traits of any human being: intelligence, strength, love, which work only when they are put together. I realised that Igor’s heavy character needed a counterpoint. Perhaps in the image of himself, but as a child. And it was important for me to show that Igor is not a beast, but a complex being with his own pros and cons. His interaction with Lesha proves this and at the same time shows how bigoted Igor is and that bigotry is not the answer. Lyosha is a brave, noble being. He is a kind of Virgil who leads the guys through the circles of hell from the bottom to the top. And who himself gets chained up by the guys along the way because they don’t believe in his goodness. Because they’ve forgotten what it is. This is how I show the damaging effect of unfreedom – the guys mistake kindness for deceit and guile.
Escapes and pursuits can be emotionally charged moments in a film. How did you work with the actors to convey the emotional intensity of the characters during these scenes?
We had rehearsals for a month and for a whole month I analysed them in an attempt to understand what trait in these teenagers could make them defenceless children. My aim was not to refer to anger, but instead to exceptional kindness and helplessness. For me, the most powerful moment of the film is at the very end, when they are driving back in the car. Tears are difficult to rehearse, it was a matter of improvisation. The guys knew each other well at that point, and when someone started crying, the others started laughing and crying themselves. For me, it’s the quintessence of life. It’s how the reaction manifests itself, “Why are you crying, are you a wimp?” And reply: “You know, I’m a wimp, too. And that what makes us humans, not beats”.