Andrei Konchalovsky / RU, 2020 / 116 min.
This poignant Russian film is set in 1962, when a workers' strike was brutally suppressed. It is an episode in Khrushchev’s Soviet Union that was long covered up. The film, beautifully shot in black and white, was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Film Festival of Venice.
Lyudmila is a local apparatchik in Novocherkass, a city in the southern Soviet Union. She is a loyal communist who fought to protect Stalin’s ideology during WW II. When the workers in the local factory decide to lay down their work, Lyudmilla is determined to clamp down on the strike.
Russia, 2021: in the wake of Putin’s latest election victory, reforms seem further away than ever. How different things were in the late 1950s, when Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union’s new leader following the death of Stalin, gave an impulse for change. This period, which came to be known as the ‘thaw’, gave rise to classics such as Ballad of a Soldier (1959, Grigorii Chukhrai) and The Cranes Are Flying (1957, Michail Kalatozov); a new generation of filmmakers (Tarkovsky, Shepitko) also stepped into the spotlight.