"The kitty thought... maybe I can escape... where is this country?", spells Anton-the-child, while in the other room the grown-ups argue about where to send him next. Anton is autistic - a condition which, in Russia, equals a considerable stigma attached to him and to his family. But the autobiographical essay signed by Liubov Arkus goes far beyond exposing the limits and inadequacies of Russia’s healthcare provision for the mentally ill.
A writer and film critic by profession, Arkus first encounters Anton through his written words, via a poem he wrote as a child while trying to understand more about ‘people’ as human beings: "People can be kind, happy, sad, nice, good, grateful, big, small. They walk, run, jump, talk, look, listen", writes Anton-the-child. Seven years later, when Arkus meets Anton-the-teenager, she notices that he had long stopped writing. She starts documenting her sinuous, quasi-maternal relationship with him as an anguished human being, and they both try to cope with all the different people who will touch Anton’s life, showing compassion, indifference and occasionally grace. While accompanying Anton on his journey from an unfriendly institution to another, always in hope of a better place, Arkus starts reflecting on the boy’s role as a mirror for her own losses, on the wider longings associated with the human condition, and on how all of us, at some point in our lives, learn the hard way that people are always alone, even when someone is always right there.
People endure, whether autistic or not, and the camera, when carried with compassion, transfigures us all.
13 March, 18:00, Studioul Horia Bernea
16 March, 16:00, Cinemateca Eforie
Silver Mouse Award of the Internet Critics, Venice Film Festival, Italy, 2012
Best Debut, Abu Dhabi International Film Festival, UAE, 2012
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ special prize, Stalker Human Rights Festival, Moscow, Russia, 2012
Vienna Internation Film Festival, Austria, 2012
Tallin Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia, 2012
London Russian Films Festival, UK, 2012
Russian Film Festival Sputnik, Warsaw, Poland, 2012
Watch Docs International Human Rights in Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland, 2012
ArtDok Festival, Moscow, Russia, 2012
Tromso International Film Festival, Norway, 2012
Black Movie Festival, Switzerland, 2012
Goteborg International Film Festival, Sweden, 2012