If you had to look up the title you may not learn what you want to from this film – a Wikipedia entry this is not.
Chronicling the lives of those at the age where one may typically befit a coming of age story, Transnistra follows several floating through the countryside, their days, local formalities and sojourns within a picturesque adolescence replete with landscapes resplendent throughout.
Adopting a narrative style yet as statedly so a documentary filmed in (gorgeous) 16mm, the rare setting and the autonomy of Transnistria, which evokes a strong pre-90’s Soviet influence, is the subject of still great contention between local authorities, Moldova and many more.
The potential scope for a documentary covering these matters and the geopolitical implications teased by the title are duly fascinating; this dimension fairly being explored in the film in indirect ways. Transnistra lacks the grounding for the unaccustomed or any detailed explanation of the issues confronting the area that the descriptors might suggest; instead delving into the lived experiences of several, their aspirations, fears and occasionally what the label Transnistria means for them.
Most memorable for the observations of a local ceremony with all the small scale pomp and fanfare evocative of times and places long gone, the landscapes and rural visuals, together with that not oft seen, will too linger in many a mind. Transnistra does go a bit long given the near singular focus on the private and intimate lives of these individuals in whose very particular and personal stories the intended broader themes of the film and challenges facing the region aren’t always palpably mirrored. When however their musings delve into how the unusual geopolitical situation impacts their goals and lives in a resonantly practical way, the film is at it’s strongest, most welcomely innovative and emblematic of issues ill-explored in cinema.
Transnistra screens at Palace Verona as part of the Antenna Documentary Film Festival on Sunday October 27