Friday, October 11, 2019

DVDebut for Jessica Gorter's doc, 900 DAYS: Myth & Reality of the Siege of Leningrad

Says the old man to the old woman, after turning off their TV set: "It's better to watch an empty screen than to watch this comedy." The "comedy" to which he's referring is the current (well, current when this 2011 documentary was filmed, at least) Russian television coverage "honoring" those "heroes" of the famous Siege of Leningrad by the Nazi Germans during World War II.

Why this fellow, himself a siege survivor, is so angry and caustic will be revealed, again and again, during the course of the 77-minute documentary, 900 DAYS: MYTH & REALITY OF THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD, from Netherlands-born filmmaker Jessica Gorter.

Though made much before the current and seemingly worldwide siege of idiot nationalism had taken such firm hold, Ms Gorter's movie (the filmmaker is shown, left) offers a fine tonic of anti-nationalism -- from wherever state that foolish form of patriotism comes.

In this case, it's Russia, with its pompous rhetoric, ego-driven oligarchs, and stupid military parades full of medal-laden men marching in what might as well be goose-step -- for all the difference there is between Nazism and whatever fascism tickles your fancy. (The fellow below, as you'll learn, wears his own medals with a certain irony.)

Most of the folk we meet in Gorter's documentary are pretty old -- who but the very elderly survivors would remain alive well into the 21st Century? -- but they are still remarkably cogent and fiesty. The man below, together with his wife, has plenty to say in his quiet, serious manner (she's more open and talkative, but no less intelligent),

while the sad woman below seems still to be reeling from those early-life events that changed everything for her. Though remaining a major cat-lover throughout her life, as you'll soon see, she also tells us the story behind that strange painting of a cat and a pair of killers, shown to the left of her, that TrustMovies suspects you will not easily forget.

Gorter's film is full of -- besides these aged talking heads -- archival footage of the Stalingrad Siege that ought to give a pretty fair picture of what went on there, from the corpses in the streets (as below) to the relentless Russian propaganda (still going on today) that cast the citizens of the doomed metropolis as heroes rather than the victims they clearly were. And victims not only of the Nazis but of their own despicable government.

You'll hear about everything from cannibalism (complete with statistics of the time regrading the large percentage of cannibals that were not members of the Communist Party!) to the eating of one's own household pets, and you'll witness some very interesting conflicts among these survivors concerning the good deeds of old Joe Stalin. In one bizarre scene, shot during a tour being given to school children regarding this famous siege, one young fellow faints dead away as a particular visual is shown on the effects of dystrophy.

You should come away from this relatively short but piercing and absolutely necessary documentary with a new-found appreciation of what the people of Leningrad endured -- along with disgust at how their own government let them die back then and continues, in its quest toward absolute nationalism, to betray them even today.

From Icarus Home Video, in Dutch and Russian with English subtitles, 900 Days: Myth & Reality of the Siege of Leningrad will make its U.S. debut on home video (DVD and VOD) this coming Tuesday, October 15 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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