The first feature film by director Maryna Vroda, ‘Stepne’, has been included in the main competition of the Locarno Film Festival, which will take place August 2-12. A total of 17 films are represented in the category, including new works by Filipino Lav Diaz (Essential Truths of the Lake), Romanian Radu Jude (Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World Film) and Frenchman Quentin Dupieux (Yannick)
‘Stepne’ is a story of several days of life of an aged man, who comes to a small Ukrainian village called Stepne to take care of his dying mother. Before her death, his mother tells him about a set of things buried inside the shed that ‘will revoke his memories and make him feel all those dreams he had and all those things he craved for, but never achieved’.
‘Once he was wanted by the society and his family, and now he is a tired and a mostly disappointed person, living rather by inertia, — the film’s synopsis reads. — A trip from a city to his mother’s village is a long and complicated road for him… His mother’s death, a meeting with his brother and a one-way love for a woman enable him to feel himself alive once. Nevertheless, somehow he still understands that this is only an echo of a life he could have lived’.
The film also raises the issue of ‘alienation between the people in a post-soviet society’.
‘As a filmmaker, I was always interested in the topic of disappearance, vanishing, departure, and parting with something really valuable. That refers to the disappearance of the whole system of social relations between people, erasing the past of a person or the state due to changes in a social structure. It’s a farewell to these elusive things that would never come back, — Maryna Vroda explained. — This moment of goodbye, farewell and disappearance is interesting for me, as I watch part of my own country’s past and the past of my parents walking away. Vanishing nature of old Ukrainian villages, people still living there, but being out of the system — all this carries a striking beauty of dying’.
The director also adds that ‘Stepne’ is ‘an elegiac tale with silence as one of the main characters. It is the stillness that covers the endless Ukrainian steppes and echoes in the sounds of the past generations’.
The winner of the international competition of the Locarno Film Festival receives the Golden Leopard award. Other awards in this category include the Jury Special Award and the Silver Leopards for Best Direction, Best Actor and Best Actress.
In 2011, Maryna Vroda won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for her short film ‘Cross’.
The film reflects the director’s memories of high school gym class. The drama tells the story of a boy who first is forced to run, and then he runs on his own. Then he watches another one run. According to Maryna, the film also gives reason to think ‘where Ukraine is running to’.