Using personal and professional perspectives, Filmmaker Alexander Mihalkovich and Filmmaker/Journalist Hanna Badziaka underscore the causes and consequences of the decades-old “tradition” of violent bullying, torture and murder as a means of control over Belarusian military conscripts.
When young Nikita reports for compulsory military duty in 2020, he enters a generationsold tradition that hides a deadly secret in post-Soviet Belarus: dedovshchina, the practice of violent abuse and bullying that supposedly turns boys into men but which has instead created generational trauma deeply embedded in the country’s present-day culture and identity.
Svetlana lives with this traumatic reality every day– her son was found hanged on base two years earlier as a result of dedovshchina, and a veil of secrecy continues to conceal his murderers. In this country where sons are disposable, and the instruments of control are out of hand, mothers emerge as inexhaustible fighters confronting the status quo.
Nikita and Svetlana’s stories also frame a rage in the streets against the state-led violence, rooted in dedovshchina, that has become the very mechanism of fear the government uses to control its populace.
Badziaka and Mihalkovich capture a snapshot of a troubled, modern-day Belarus through the real-life experiences of mothers and new conscripts, overlaid with the raw voices of those who have gone before them, taken from their private letters home.
* The phenomenon of “dedovshchina” (a variety of subordinating or humiliating compulsory activities undertaken by new recruits, leaving them with serious psychopathology for their lifetime) has roots in the traditions of the Soviet Army, implemented by recruited ex-convicts who brought criminal rules to bear in the military system.
SCREENINGS & AWARDS
World Premiere: CPH:DOX DOX:Award Competition 2023
2023 FIFDH (Swiss Premiere)
2023 One World Prague (Czech Premiere)
2023 goEast Film Festival (German Premiere)
2023 DokFest Munich
2023 Subversive Film Festival (Croatian Premiere)
2023 Seattle Film Festival (North American Premiere)
2023 Doc-Cevennes (French Premiere)
2023 DocsBarcelona (Spanish Premiere)
Upcoming: Krakow Film Festival (May 28 – June 4), FIGRA (May 30 – June 4)
- Main Award in DOX:AWARD Competition at CPH:DOX 2023
“This was such a cinematic and meaningful film that took its time unfolding the complexity of living within an oppressive and unjust system. It poses questions about the idea of an individual choice within a cornered society. The title of the film is a way to give back the power to the women who are at the forefront of this fight. The award goes to ‘Motherland’ by Hanna Badziaka and Alexander Mihalkovich.”
- FIPRESCI International Film Critic’s Award for Best Documentary at goEast Film Festival 2023
Reviews: Little White Lies, Eye For Film, Filmuforia, Hindustan Times, Cineuropa, En Primera Fila, Variety, Unseen Films, Modern Times Review, La Estatuilla, Screen Daily, Le Polyester, Business Doc Europe
“…Co-directors Badziaka and Mihalkovich have crafted a touching but highly distressing film. …” “…Blessed with strikingly intimate and often visceral footage it is a tough but vital watch…”Mark Adams, Business Doc Europe
“…It’s tense, essential filmmaking which, with its stormy colour palette and wintry gloom, gives a mounting sense of oppressive tension…” “This is a textured, layered documentary that builds into a multi-faceted portrait of a country…”Wendy Ide, Screen Daily
DIRECTOR’S BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY
Alexander Mihalkovich is Belarusian-Ukrainian director and producer. He graduated with a PhD in Library Science and an MA in Film Directing at DocNomads international study program. His focus as a filmmaker is on long-term projects towards which he feels a close personal relationship. He produces documentaries with an experimental and creative background, beautiful cinematography, and a clear director’s vision.
After creating several short documentary and experimental films, he made his debut feature film My Granny from Mars. It had a successful theatrical release in Ukraine and has been selected at numerous international film festival including DOK.fest München 2019, Beldocs Belgrade 2019, Sarajevo IFF DocuTalents Award 2018, Jihlava IDFF 2018, Eastern Neighbours Film Festeival 2019 (as the opening night film), among many others.
My Granny From Mars (2018) 73′
Leave Permission (2017) 15′
White sheet of paper (2016) 11′
Two (2015) 11′
Klapotski (2009) 17′
Hanna Badziaka is a filmmaker with a background in journalism. She graduated with a Master’s degree in Philology from the Belarusian State University in 2010. She began her career as a video journalist for independent online media and later worked for the only
independent TV channel in Belarus. As a journalist, she focused on social issues and everyday life topics. After gaining extensive experience in creating in-depth video reports, she became interested in documentary filmmaking. She then participated in creating several documentaries and worked as a director and scriptwriter for TV projects focused on short documentaries. Motherland, which she co-directs, is her feature documentary debut.
Direction, screenplay Alexander Mihalkovich, Hanna Badziaka
Camera Siarhiej Kanaplianik
Sound Yngve Sætre, Thomas Angell Endresen
Editing Katiia Vushnya; additional editors: Jakub Bastkowski, Jerzy Poniatowski
Composer Yngve Sætre, Thomas Angell Endresen
Producers Mario Adamson, Ashley J. Smith, Alexander Mihalkovich, Anita Norfolk
Production company Sisyfos Film Production
Co-production Voka Films, Folk Film
WITH THE SUPPORT OF
Mediefondet Zefyr, The Fritt Ord Foundation, Bergesenstiftelsen, IDFA Bertha Fund, Renovabis Research Grant, Viewfinder Masters Program, IMS, Baltic to Black Sea Documentary Network (B2B Doc), Docs Up Fund, Fund for Belarus Democracy – German Marshall Fund, Prague Civil Society Centre
PRODUCER’S BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY
Mario is the founder and co-artistic director of Sisyfos Film Production. He has produced and co-produced internationally acclaimed films such as the multiple award-winning documentaries Scheme Birds, Merry Christmas, Yiwu, The Scars of Ali Boulala, and How to Save a Dead Friend. Mario is an alumnus of the EURODOC and Jihlava Emerging Producer program, as well as the Sundance Institute Fund. He is originally a sound designer/composer with a career spanning four decades in the film industry.
Ashley J. Smith
Originally from the United States, Ashley is co-artistic director of Sisyfos Film Production in Stockholm, Sweden. Together with Mario Adamson, she produced The Scars of Ali Boulala (World Premiere Tribeca 2021, Tempo Documentary Award 2022, Swedish Academy Award nomination 2022). She is currently producing documentary and fiction projects, including Flying (dir. Teresa Kristoffersson), Between Worlds (dir. Zara Arrehed), Depot-Vente (dir. Cherine Karam), Elevated (dir. Gustav Littorin), and Galax-Ma (dir. Dijle Yigitbas). Recently, she also produced three music videos for Fever Ray.
Alexander Mihalkovich is the founder of Voka Films, a Belarusian-Ukrainian production company. He holds a PhD in Library Science and an MA in Film Directing from the DocNomads international study program. Alexander’s documentary films are known for their experimental and creative approach, as well as beautiful cinematography and a clear directorial vision. He has produced several short documentaries and experimental films, including the feature film My Granny from Mars (2018), which tells the story of an old granny in the context of the annexation of Crimea. Alexander has recently completed the long-term project Motherland, which premiers in 2023 and explores the system of violence in authoritarian societies. He is currently working on a new project called Transparency Booth, set to release in 2025.
Anita is the founder of Folk Film, an independent production company in Bergen, Norway. Folk Film most recently co-produced the feature documentaries How to Save a Dead Friend (L’ACID Cannes, winner DOC:NYC, nominated for the European Film Awards), and The Scars of Ali Boulala (premiere 2021 Tribeca Film Festival). Prior to Folk Film Anita worked for over a decade in the UK – first for video games developer Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption), before moving into producing documentaries and animation for the award-winning studio Mosaic Films (London). Anita has an MA in Film Studies from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in Documentary Directing from Edinburgh College of Art, and is a participant of Berlinale Talents (2020) and Eurodoc (2023).
Sisyfos Film Production
Sisyfos Film Production look for stories that help us understand the world around us, evoke empathy, and inspire change. Their team of collaborators from around the globe allow them to work across borders and reach international audiences. Whether fiction or nonfiction, feature or short, making films that tell unique and emotional stories while connecting to universal human values –stories that speak to the heart.
Based in Stockholm, Sweden and Edinburgh, Scotland, Sisyfos is behind the internationally acclaimed films such as Scheme Birds (Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca Film Festival, 2019), Merry Christmas, Yiwu (Winner of the Heart of Sarajevo, 2020), The Scars of Ali Boulala (Tempo Documentary Award, 2022), How to Save a Dead Friend (ACID Cannes 2022) and Butterfly Vision (Cannes Un Certain Regard 2022).
Sisyfos Film Production