A Meandering Review About a Meandering Film From the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) by Kitty Aal

My Conversation With Jesse Bishop, MSPIFF Programing Director

“GRACE” БЛАЖЬ | BLAZH Dir. Ilya Povolotsky. Russia, 2023

This is a road trip movie – a genre with an existential core. There is a faint plot, but the more compelling aspects of the film are the observations of sublime landscapes and glimpses of other lives being lived along the way. A father and adolescent daughter living in a red van crossing, in no rush whatsoever, vast swaths of rural Russia of today, though outside of the cities (and far from reliable internet), people live as though it is 1995 or even 1960. It is an eerie feeling to time travel like that. The sense of eternity, boredom, and listlessness is uncanny coming from an activity-jammed over-scheduled culture like ours. The relationship between father and daughter is a strange mixture of the impersonal and the intimate. There is minimal dialogue. A lot is just understood – communicated with glances, posture – unnecessary to say aloud. The girl is motherless, the father ill-equipped to give the girl the life she wants (and what does she want? not an aimless life on the road for one). But the father does his best. What else can he do? This is a world of resignation.

The father and daughter are never named, to my recollection, and spend a lot of time together in remote zones – truck stops, dusty open fields, and decaying formerly grand towns on the sea. They get by burning dvds to sell or setting up the occasional (illegal) movie screening for those without such luxuries. Time is passed reading, washing clothes, smoking as water trickles over rocks and the winds blow and blow. In a rare scene back in the other “connected” world, a mega mall (with a Burger King) seems to materialize out of nowhere, its neon lights appearing like a strange space station that has landed on an unresisting people ready to buy whatever is being offered, as we are prone to do.

As the pair travel over mountains and across steppes hearing different languages spoken (and the call to prayer heard) part of me wishes I had a map of where they went, but the feeling of these mostly unnamed places existing separate from our world adds to the feel of being outside of life. Places where this is the life you are given and you just live it. To have little control might seem oppressive to some, but to me it felt like a break from the oppressive sense of control we think we have over here. A different kind of burden.


Ahmed Tharwat …. in the middle AhMedia.... احا مديا A media critic, and a media consultant... A show with an accent for those without one! AhMedia احا مديا Ahmed Tharwat/ Host BelAhdan TV show Freelance Writer, Public Speaker, International Media Fixer


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