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SOLOTHURN 2023

Review: This Kind of Hope

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- Pawel Siczec gives us an incisive and aesthetically powerful portrait of Belarusian activist, diplomat and politician Andrei Sannikov

Review: This Kind of Hope

Born in Warsaw but raised in Libya and Switzerland, Pawel Siczec moved to Munich where he attended the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film specialising in documentary films. This is indeed the privileged format of his films, a sort of magnifying glass that allows him to show the world some realities that are often forgotten, as well as characters fighting to change the world or simply to survive. Eight years after Half the Town, Pawel Soczec focuses for his new documentary This Kind of Hope on the courageous Belarusian activist, diplomat and politician Andrei Sannikov.

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Chosen as the opening film of the 58th Solothurn Film Festival, This Kind of Hope is a powerful and aesthetically poetic portrait of an impenetrable but also extremely touching character who has never stopped fighting despite the fact that his world seems to be gradually and dangerously crumbling. In the 1990s, Andrei Sannikov played a central role in the nuclear disarmament of Belarus (but not only) before finally retiring from public office under the dictatorship of Aljaksandr Lukašėnka. A fervent defender of a democratic Belarus, free and open towards Europe, Sannikov was imprisoned for a long time and lost many of his comrades in the struggle who died because of their opinions and thirst for independence. Today stateless, lost in a Warsaw that is sadly turning from a refuge and temporary exile into a permanent home, Sannikov continues to fight for a free Belarus that is proud of its culture. An existence marked by violence and revolutionary struggles that is nourished by hope despite a future with increasingly leaden colours.

Pawel Soczec follows with his camera the vicissitudes of Sannikov, his forced exile and fleeting moments of intimacy with his family without intervening directly, with respect and tenderness. The Belarusian activist, his face filmed often in close-up, reveals much about his life with modesty and intelligence. What intrigues and fascinates is the pride with which Sannikov's gaze and body tell of a past made up of struggles, pain and frustrations, but also of hope and pride. Sannikov speaks little, his narrative is rough and direct, effective and at times cruel, as if feelings and emotions had no right to emerge. What speaks in their place is his gaze, at once impassive and penetrating, but also the small everyday gestures that go from banal to cathartic and liberating. In this way, the body is transformed into a receptacle for micro-revolutions (as Michel de Certeau would say) that emerge to the surface as testimonies of a struggle that from personal becomes universal. Heating water in a makeshift kettle as if in prison, meticulously getting dressed for the countless conferences he attends, doing homework with his son or even playing ping-pong with his family are tangible signs of a past and a present that amalgamate in a constant coming and going between pain and hope.

Pawel Soczec restores a pain that seems imprisoned in the body, a pain still too intense to be expressed in words. The numerous scenes of intimacy, whether with his family or alone in his Warsaw flat, further accentuate the general atmosphere of anguish and uncertainty that dominates the film, as if nothing could release Sannikov from his enforced exile. This does not mean he has given up, however; on the contrary, the Belarusian activist never loses hope, clinging with all his might to a vital energy that seems inexhaustible. This Kind of Hope is a powerful film, a courageous portrait of a complex and fascinating man who has no intention of giving up.

This Kind of Hope was produced by Zurich outfit A Film Company, German company Departures Film and the SRF.

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(Translated from Italian)

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