Russian director Slava Ross returned to his native Siberia for his second feature film and the result is a crafted, atmospheric meditation on the darkness of the average soul and the strange possibilities for redemption. The blunt brutality of the film is coupled with an endearing compassion that has garnered the attention of audiences and critics.
Acclaimed French director Luc Besson has acted as a midwife to the arthouse film, titled “Siberia Monamour.” Besson performed final edits and purchased the distribution rights for 20 years. As producer, he is also promoting the film abroad in time for film festival markets.
Besson has worked on 50 films as writer, director or producer in the last 25 years, and his role gave the film just that much more legitimacy within the international film community. “Siberia Monamour” has been screened in New York and is now making the festival circuit.
The work was a decade-long odyssey that culminated in filming from makeshift villages on the taiga with feral dogs and a cold—and at times disgruntled—crew. Ross was finally rewarded with rare praise from American and European critics for his strong direction and arthouse potential.
"Miles away from the absurdist theatrics of his debut feature, "Fat Stupid Rabbit," Ross convincingly depicts various country folk fighting to survive both in and around the ironically named hamlet of Monamour," The Hollywood Reporter wrote, adding that "Performances are strong across the board, and the young Protsko [Lyochka] is particularly touching without ever seeming cute."
“I was born in Siberia and lived there 33 years, and I know about it from my personal perspective,” Ross said after a Moscow screening at the Film Library. “I wrote all this, but of course the scenario resembles real life, from what I’ve seen and known.”
At the center of Ross’s story is a young orphan, Lyochka, and his grandfather, who is played by Pyotry Zaichenko, who heralds from Pavel Lungin’s signature 90s film, “Taxi Blues.” The two live in the otherwise abandoned old village, in the kind of disrepair that is one step from destitution. In their case, they are one forest away from help, and the denizens of the nearby town cluck and gossip about the grandfather’s refusal to move closer to modern amenities. Their only protection is an ancient icon they pray to each night by candlelight. A troubled Army officer and his grunt soldier abuse but then ultimately find a surprising solidarity with a teen prostitute and their path eventually leads them to Lyochka.
The neglected village was constructed for the film. “With the art director we found a glade with a remarkable and amazing backdrop,” Ross said. “Our art director created the village, but we didn’t build it from new materials. All houses were purchased, disassembled, transported and recreated to make a new place.”
But the real village Monamour exists as well. Cossacks experienced Paris after the War of 1812, and then returned to the Ural Mountains and to Siberia. French names were given to many places that still exist. The village Monamour exists as well, but it is a forgotten place. ...