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Review: My Father Is My Mother’s Brother


- The touching and powerful documentary by Ukrainian director Vadym Ilkov was awarded the Régionyon Jury Prize at Visions du Réel festival

Review: My Father Is My Mother’s Brother

The touching and powerful documentary My Father Is My Mother’s Brother [+see also:
film profile
 by Vadym Ilkov won over the jury at Visions du Réel, taking home the award for the most innovative film of the international competition – the Régionyon Jury Prize. A more than deserved award for an aesthetically fascinating film that respectfully and courageously tells the story of a modern family struggling with the difficulties, but above all, the joys of life.

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Anatoly Belov, an artist from the Ukrainian underground scene, who embodies the punk essence of Courtney Love and the androgynous charm of Martin Gore, must take care of his only young niece, Katya, who now considers him her father. Her mother, Anya, can no longer look after her. Constantly tossed from one psychiatric hospital to another, Anya decides to leave Katya with her brother, in the hope that he might become a figure of reference and emotional support for her. Anya is often filmed in a backlight or half-light, in profile, while she eagerly smokes a cigarette, drinks a cup of tea or hypnotically watches her small television screen. These daily scenes of solitude and isolation transform her into a sort of shadow among the shadows, a presence or absence that seems on the cusp of vanishing.

In contrast with this ethereal and mysterious reality we find Anatoly and Katya, partners in crime, who are in search of a family balance that is not always evident. Ilkov films scenes of everyday and domestic life, but also those that are overflowing with unconventional creativity, moments that are both intimate and shared, personal and universal. Ilkov accompanies the intensity and power of Anatoly's performances with fixed shots of Katya sleeping in the arms of her replacement father. Anatoly's music becomes the glue that unites these two apparently distant realities: the one linked to his identity as an artist, and his familial identity. The scene in which Anatoly sings the refrain of one of his songs ("fuck me please") while Kaya sleeps quietly in his arms is of a rare intensity.

My Father Is My Mother's Brother feeds on these apparent contradictions and presents them to the audience as if to show that fragility and strength, light and shadow can harmoniously cohabit the same space. Vadym Ilkov films a family that is by no means gives in to clichés, it is free and proud of it, despite some difficult moments, doubts and inevitable tension. The strength of My Father Is My Mother's Brother lies in this freedom, simplicity, intensity of images and the courage of its characters – modern anti-heroes in search of happiness.

My Father Is My Mother's Brother was produced by Studio Garmata Film Production. Darya Bassel is responsible for international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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