Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (orig. небесные жены луговых мари) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

KinoNews.ru listing*   KinoPoisk.ru listing*
Kino-teatr.ru listing*    Kritikanstvo.ru listing*

E-Kazan.ru coverage*  Filmz.ru interview with director*

MariUver.ru (S. Nikitin) review*

Argumenty-i-Fakty (A. Rogova) review* (5/10)
Argumenty-i-Fatky (M. Mamona) review* (8/10)
Kino-teatr.ru (E. Tkachev) review*
Pravda.ru (A. Evseev) review*
RIA-Novosti.ru (G. Olkhovoy) review*
RusKino.ru (S. Stepnova) review* (8/10)
Vedomosti.ru (O. Zintsov) review*

CineVue (P. Gamble) review (3/5)
EastEurFilmBulletin (M. Pfeifer) review
EyeForFilm.co.uk (A. Robertson) review (4/5)
Sound on Sight (R. Dickie) review

The Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (orig. небесные жены луговых мари) [2012] [IMDb] [en.wikip] [ru.wikip]*[KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* (directed by Aleksey Fedorchenko [IMDb] [en.wikip] [ru.wikip]*[KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* screenplay by Denis Osokin  [IMDb] [ru.wikip]*[KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* based his book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by the same name) is EXACTLY the kind of "indie" / "insurgent" (in the best sense of the word) film that I largely created my blog to help make better known to the world.

The film did play some of the festival circuit in 2013 including the 2013 New York Film Week (whose films for the sake of "better understanding among nations" I've decided to look-up and review here) before returning back into obscurity.  I do actually hope that blogs like this one will keep at least the filmmaker and author as well as the Mari [en.wikip] people's folk-tales and practices (which make up the subject matter of much of their works) in the "collective consciousness" of the world because I do believe that their work is important and THE MARI CAN HELP ALL OF US, ESPECIALLY THOSE OF US OF (ANY) EUROPEAN DESCENT BETTER UNDERSTAND OURSELVES AND WHERE WE CAME FROM.

I write this because, the Meadow Maris (to distinguish them from the Mountain and Eastern Maris ;-) a Finno-Ugric people (hence related to the Finns/Estonians and Hungarians but lets not forget the Moldavs or Karelians either :-) still live-in and call-home the central Volga / Ural region (in a Russian administrative region called Mari-El [en.wikip] [ru.wikip] ) that was (probably) the Finno-Ugric peoples' original home.    

Further, the Maris are often called now "The Last Authentic Pagans of Europe" (the current film shows some of the characters praying / lighting candles at various traditional birch tree shrines) and hence knowing of / understanding their traditional beliefs / practices can help all people of European descent better know our (or their) own roots as well. 

This is not the first collaboration between filmmaker Aleksey Fedorchenko [IMDb] [en.wikip] [ru.wikip]*[KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* and Denis Osokin  [IMDb] [ru.wikip]*[KN.ru]*[KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* both apparently from the region.  Previously, they had collaborated on a film called Silent Souls (orig. Овсянки) [2010] [IMDb] [KP.ru]*[KT.ru]* which featured some of the funerary traditions of the Mari people.  The current film is about some of the Meadow Maris' beliefs and somewhat (to us) odd if generally simply quite "earthy" practices regarding fertility / sexuality.

However, it should be noted that the form that the film-maker / writer use here to inform the viewer of these traditional Mari beliefs and practices is NOT that of a strict documentary.  (Actually, an excellent if far-more-formal-in-structure documentary about beliefs and practices of the Mari is a 20 minute English language documentary segment produced by Russian Television entitled "Europe's Last Pagans" available on both its website and the Maris' own YouTube channel).   Instead, the filmmaker / writer express the Maris' traditional beliefs / practices in the course of the playing out of a drama (as in the case of Silent Souls (orig. Овсянки) [2010] [IMDb] [KP.ru]*[KT.ru]*) and/or the dramatization of the Maris' own folktales (as in the case of the current film).  The effect is certainly a livelier (and more authentic/lived-out-in-practice) presentation.

Now in fairness it should be noted here that "small" indigenous peoples all across the globe have during the course of history found themselves under various pressures to assimilate to the dominant or even occupying nation / culture.

The case of the Maris is no different.  From the time of the Czars, through the Soviet Era ("progressive" and "internationalist" in ideology but "if we're all 'internationalists' why hold on to one's 'particular culture...' especially if it is 'traditional' (meaning) 'backward'..."), to the era of the current Russian Federation (or "Federation"), the Maris have been under similar pressure to "Russify."

So the recent (apparently ethnic Russian) leader of the "Republic of Mari El" has apparently closed a number of Mari language newspapers in the region [en.wikip].  But then films like this are made and a Mari-run websites like MariUver and even Mari-run YouTube channels are created as well. 

Being an ethnic minority in a larger country is always a challenge, everywhere.  But the case of the Maris actually helps us to appreciate the value of respecting the _continued life_ and _vitality_ of indigenous peoples like the Mari.  THEY CAN HELP US UNDERSTAND WHO WE ARE AND WHERE WE CAME FROM.

GREAT FILM!  And I do hope that filmmaker Aleksey Fedorchenko [IMDb] and writer Denis Osokin  [IMDb] get to travel far-and-wide with their future works and that writer Denis Osokin's [GR] works get translated into English soon.

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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