Stepne (2023) Best Direction | Locarno Film Festival 2023

August 9th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Marina Vroda | Ukraine/Gerrmany/Poland/Slovakia | Drama

Ukraine has suffered a grim recent history and this first feature from award-winning filmmaker Marina Vroda certainly captures past and present in this weary plod through one family’s existence, informed by the director’s own experience.

In the running for the Locarno Film Festival’s Golden Leopard, Stepne is set in a bleak village where Anatoly (Oleksandr Maksiakov) has come home Soumy to care for his moribund mother (a spry Nina Antonova). Food shortages, numbing cold and miserable neighbours make this a thankless task but the tenderness between the two, who are joined by his brother (Oleg Primogenov) adds a glimmer of warmth to this otherwise gruelling family portrait.

Sharing stories that express the pain of the past and the future the elderly inhabitants flesh out what is otherwise a unerringly dismal exhausted portrait of Ukrainian identity and their flecks of flinty humour show a spirit and a resilience which has to be admired. They are made of sterner stuff than the younger generation who are gradually learning what it means to survive in a place beset by conflict due to the ongoing war. A difficult watch but a worthwhile one. MT







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