"Land of Oblivion" written/directed by Michale Boganim
Films shown at film festivals can be hit or miss affairs. Often the only thing that attracts viewers is a title, a brief blurb or if one is lucky a two minute trailer. And sometimes these do not properly prepare a viewer for the exquisite gift that awaits them upon seeing a particular film. "Land of Oblivion", the first feature film from writer/director Michale Boganim may very well be the best on offer at the Filmfest Munich 2012. It is obvious from the first 15 minutes of the film that she paid close attention to her instructors at university where she accumulated master's degrees in political science, anthropology and film directing, with a bachelor's in philosophy thrown in for good measure. All of these are weaved into a story that demonstrates that not only does Ms. Boganim have the credentials, she's got that something special that great filmmakers have. She can move you from highs to lows with minimal dialogue, her cinematic skill is sublime.
The story begins on a bright sunny early spring day, and this is the last time you see the sun. Things that are timeless are on display, a river, migratory birds, a forest. An apple tree is planted which again has symbolism since the tragedy which is about to happen was created by man's desire for knowledge and his own hubris. A wedding takes place the next day in front of a Lenin statue as rain begins to fall in a downpour, and announcements for the upcoming May Day parade blare from speakers. This is in Prypiat, Ukraine, the city built to house the workers of Chornobyl (Ukrainian spelling). The wedding party toasts the beautiful greenish fire. The next day the groom is called away to fight the fire, and he receives a lethal dose of radiation while the authorities assure the residents that it is no big deal. Then in an about-face, everybody must leave the area without anything but the shirts on their backs. There are no choices.
Ten years later, many of the people have moved back into the restricted area and we see it only in winter and under a grayish blue hue. A herd of wild horses run through the Zone, giving us the faintest slivers of hope. Our protagonist Anya, the former bride, played brilliantly by Olga Kurylenko of Bond girls' fame, is now giving tours to French tourists. When given the opportunity to move to Paris, get married, have children, in essence make a better life, the land of her childhood restrains her as it does so many others in the film. Though the signs of poison are all around them, they simply cannot break free. Though communism is no longer in place, the people still have no choice.
Ms. Boganim's résumé includes a few documentaries which seem to have only increased her proficiency in using many aspects in creating her art, so often lacking in mainstream movie-making. She is most definitely a talent who bears following in the future, and her film "Land of Oblivion" is an absolute must see, which will delight, depress, and make one think about their own world and the world-at-large in a different light.