One of the recent domestic releases has been announced winner in Best Documentary category by the prestigious 25th Shukshin Film Festival. Many of those who watched Fine Line said during the post-screening discussion that they felt as if they were reliving the events that happened 30 years ago and were now witnessing the historical drama’s consequences. Fine Line is debut full-length film of Anna Barsukova, who is known as the author of documentaries focusing on high-profile issues. The music for the film is by Gyuli Kambarova, holder of multiple best soundtrack awards from across the world, and is no less impressive. We talked to Anna and Gyuli to tell you more about how their project unfolded and why they think documentary films will gain in importance in today’s world.
Anna, why did you choose Gyuli to make music for our film?
Anna Barsukova: I am a filmmaker and have been focusing of socially relevant themes since 2017. But my original major is music. I earned my degree from the Rachmaninoff State Conservatory in Rostov in 2006, the violin class, and that’s where I met Gyuli Kambarova. We went separate ways after graduation and lived in two different countries, but a few years later we teamed up again for joint projects and have been cooperating ever since despite long distance and time zone difference.
But how have you been able to continue, given that you live on two different continents?
Anna Barsukova: While on my film journey within Russia’s Far North, I would send Gyuli voice messages about my impressions. Those emotional accounts were designed to evoke Gyuli’s musical imagery, and she was eager to start. After she sent back her first piece, she asked me to trust her and give full freedom to be able to bring her music ideas to life. I respected her wishes and I did right. Shortly after that, Gyuli phoned me and played a couple of tunes that I thought were perfect background to the footage. This is how the theme of Struggle came about and evolved into Hope, the former actually being the other side of the latter.
I am always glad to work with someone who is talented, can feel the situation and narrate it using the language of music. Music isn’t just a background for a film story, it accounts for maybe even 50% of the story, for it is the music that helps the viewer to get the feel of the film.
Anna, how did you come up with the idea of going to Sinegorye and making a film about it?
Anna Barsukova: The idea came about thanks to Oksana Shapoval. I’ve known her from before as a social worker at a nursing home in Kolyma. She invited me to video their anniversary celebration for the archive. But since I am a documentary filmmaker, filming an anniversary celebration sounded too easy a task. I started surfing the net to glean some info about Sinegorye and this is how I came across Ruslan’s vlog. I liked the way he spoke about his childhood and his village, and by a happy coincidence he turned out to be Oksana’s neighbor. The story and the characters were all there, so I started to prepare for my journey to Magadan. It was a quick decision.
Gyuli, at what point did you join the project as its music maker?
Gyuli Kambarova: When I saw raw footage, I was amazed at its realness and artistic value. I could smell the frosty air and feel the atmosphere in that abandoned place just by looking at the screen. The drama of the situation had to be complemented with suitable music.
It had to echo the mood of the place, had to be gloomy, even a little eerie. But those abandoned houses are just part of the film. As the story evolves, Anna skillfully brings out the theme of hope, showing the pristine nature, the blue-domed church that complements the virgin landscape of snow-covered hills, and, in the end, the long-awaited aircraft. This feeling of reemerging hope for better future was not to be lost, it had to be consolidated in the viewer’s mind with the help of music.
How did the filming process go?
Anna Barsukova: Despite the frosty weather, we filmed every day and had quite a number of busy shooting days. Alongside with dynamically evolving storyline, frost was the reason why we followed the characters as they were, often without proper lighting or time for setting the right frame. It was like shooting on the go, but we did try to do our best conveying the beauty of the place and imbuing artistic value.
Anna, your film has received the top award from the 25th Shukshin Film Festival. Our sincere congratulations! Was it the first festival you had submitted Fine Line to and what are your impressions?
Anna Barsukova: We started submitting the film to film festivals as soon as it was completed. It premiered at the prestigious DOKer FF in Moscow this past June. It screened also abroad – in England and the USA – and will soon be shown in Bhutan and more countries. It was exciting to watch my film on big screen – more so because Fine Line is my debut full-length film. The feedback from the 25th Shukshin Film Festival has been very positive. The viewers asked me a lot of questions, they mostly wanted to know about how the journey went and about the life in Sinegorye.
What camera did you use for Fine Line? Did it work all right in cold climate?
Anna Barsukova: My assistant and I mostly used two cameras – Canon EOS R6 and Canon 90D – with Canon and Tamron lenses. Canon products have traveled with us to many different Russian destinations. They survived heavy snowfalls and wild temperature swings all right. We know they won’t fail.
Gyuli, why did you choose to make music for documentary films?
Gyuli Kambarova: Every time Anna and I work on a story, we put a piece of our souls into it. We devote to it a lot of time and energy. For us, every story is a little life. We live through it, experience the world characters, and with every story we learn something new that transforms our worldview. It’s like becoming more mature. And every time it’s an amazing journey! Documentary films have an important mission: they cause viewers to think about the problems of this world and try to find solutions.
Anna, is there anything you’d like to add?
Anna Barsukova: All our films are meant to make us a better society. They touch on socially relevant issues, and we are pleased to know we can contribute to their solutions by making our films.
What are your plans for further promotion of the film?
Anna Barsukova: For the time being, we would like Fine Line to continue to screen at films festivals, and we are currently negotiating screening at a number of thematic venues. As soon as we know the dates, we’ll post them on the film’s official website for our followers to be able to see Fine Line.
Anna, Gyuli, thank you very much for your film. We wish you every success in promoting it.
Briefly about the film:
Twenty-two years after the collapse of the USSR the residents of the once thriving town of Sinegorye regain hope for better future and revival of the home town.
Oksana leaves big city life for a remote northern place and a job at nursing home. She gets to know the local people and about what happened to the once thriving town of Sinegorye, Magadan Province. Local resident Ruslan takes Oksana to the house where he grew up and shows her the airport and other derelict buildings as illustrations of the consequences of the events that started 30 years ago. The sight comes as a shock and is enough to cause utter despair, but after a while the life in town begins to change for the better…