Fertile Ground (2023)
Writer/Director: Anastasia Kolas
Cinematography: Joanna Piechotta/ Anton Ryabtsev
Who can speak about historical memory and how? As Belarusian archives remain managed by the authoritarian regime, those within and outside its borders are left piecing together their abbreviated personal stories, often overshadowed by the dominant narratives nearby. Prompted by her estranged father’s futile quest — of locating the plot of land on the outskirts of Minsk, on which his family lived before they’d been dispossessed and sent to Siberia — the filmmaker reflects on her own sense of displacement and alienation in Berlin, where she’d arrived around the time of COVID pandemic. Caught between the housing crisis, mood of migrant resentments, obtuse bureaucracy, and shadowed by a Stalinist monument in the neighborhood, the filmmaker assembles a slowly unfurling examination of the notion of home, property and inheritance in its many manifestations: as embodied experiences, material possessions and images. By inserting scripted and improvised scenes, created with family members in Minsk and a theory reading group in Berlin, next to the family archive, the film becomes a collaboration across generations and territories. Amidst the materials sent from Minsk, is a rare recording. Speaking from the vaults of history, filmmaker’s great-grandmother reveals an image of the early 20th century that is both familiar and surprising. The two wars, revolution, child labor, repressions, and the conflicting cosmologies become an echo for the ongoing geo-political struggle on the transient territory that is Belarus today.