Under the Grey Sky (2024) Tribeca Film Festival 2024

June 8th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Mara Tamkovich | Drama 81’

Belarusian authorities continue their “purge” of independent voices punishing all who fall out of line. And with this in mind filmmaker Mara Tamkovich follows a freelance journalist in the lead up to and aftermath of her brutal arrest after reporting on a peaceful demo taking place in the Square of Changes in Belarus capital Minsk.

Based on real events that occurred on November 15th 2020, this sober and dispassionate feature debut from the Belarusian Polish filmmaker shows how Belsat journalist Lena Antonova (Aliaksandra Vaitsekhovich) and her partner Ilya (Valentin Novopolskij) live an ordinary life in Minsk until she covertly films the event from the window of an apartment overlooking the square.

A police drone floating nearby picks up the activity and takes draconian action. From then on Lena, her partner and colleagues are plunged into a world of uncertainty and anguish as the powers that be sentence The journalist to seven days of administrative detention followed by more serious criminal charges, imposed in a secret trial. Under The Grey Sky tracks the process in a classically styled and immersive socio-political drama that shows how the aftermath impacts the couple with long term consequences for all concerned.

Under the Grey Sky is a calm but affecting portrait of modern day persecution fleshed out from the writer/director’s short film LIVE (2022). Tamkovich never loses control of her well-paced narrative that avoids melodrama to tell a tension-fuelled tale, still all too common in countries which turn a blind eye to modern day human rights issues. Seasoned stage actor Vaitsekhovich gives a remarkable central performance as Lena, and we feel for her character’s plight.

According to Amnesty International, hundreds remain behind bars on politically motivated charges and face ill-treatment in detention. No rights organization is able to operate legally in Belarus.

Belarusian authorities have prosecuted critics of Russia’s war in Ukraine and brutally dispersed anti-war protests, while allowing Russian forces to use Belarus territory to support their invasion of Ukraine since February 24, 2022.

Belarus remains the only country in Europe and Central Asia to use the death penalty and expanded the crimes to which it can be imposed in 2022. @MeredithTaylor


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