Review: The Earth Is Blue as an Orange
by Teresa Vena
- The documentary by Ukraine's Iryna Tsilyk, winner of the Best Director award in Sundance's World Cinema Documentary Competition, is an affectionate homage to subjects who are hungry for life
Shown in the World Cinema Documentary Competition, where it won the Best Director award, The Earth Is Blue as an Orange [+see also:
interview: Iryna Tsilyk
film profile] was without a doubt one of the most impressive works from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Considering its rhythm and the extraordinary setting in which the story of this intriguing family unfolds, the documentary from Ukrainian director Iryna Tsilyk could easily be mistaken for a fiction film.
In the “red zone”, an isolated part of the Donbass region and one of the most dangerous in Ukraine, live a mother and her children. Without a father but living with the grand-mother, they are part of a small group that hasn’t fled the armed conflict. Hidden in a cave, they work on their own film. They rehearse and prepare scenes, put the camera on their knees, very close to their faces. One of the daughters directs, the mother does the editing. Everyone has their role, in front of and behind the camera. Between takes, there are laughs, arguments, and an effervescence of ideas shared by everyone in the family, all of them animated by a shared passion for cinema and for life itself. Their activity of filmmaking becomes surreal in this unique context, which we are reminded of by the sound of crumbling buildings or patrolling soldiers in a tank, flattered to be filmed by the family.
The director sensitively follows her subjects, leaving each one of them enough space to paint the portrait of a family she clearly feels a lot of respect and admiration for. She knows the region, having already worked there on various cultural projects such as the “Yellow Bus” initiative through which she introduced locals to cinema and which allowed her to build a relationship with the subjects of her latest film.
Though outside conditions have a direct impact on the form and visual aspect of the film, they also give it a strange, slightly magical atmosphere. The lighting, for example, often dim, lends a warm glow to the faces, capturing both the tears of emotion and the sparks of joy in their eyes when the members of this family talk about their own film. Despite its physical proximity to the subjects, the camera always finds its way towards an objective distance and makes the emotions palpable. Without taking advantage of its subjects nor falling into sentimentalism, The Earth Is Blue as an Orange is an affectionate and politically impartial homage to subjects who are hungry for life and of unshakable optimism
(Translated from French)
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