Programmed by Gabrielle Ouimet
Grand Prix MyStreetFilms 2018 - "86" IFFU, Ukraine
Life flows in its everyday reality, but then suddenly something elusive changes its course. All that is left is the chance to plunge into memories where everything is preserved, as if in a museum. The story of a deserted Ukrainian beach that is currently mined and dangerous due to underwater explosives.
A word from Tënk
Zoya Laktionova’s Diorama captures the quiet anticipation of invisible danger haunting the coastal landscape of the director's hometown of Mariupol. Striking images of solitary fishermen, stray cats and deserted foggy shores translate a feeling of deep love and grief for her birth place, its people, animals, trees and waters. Steady, pulsating waves of the sea full of mines feel like a ticking clock counting down the minutes before everything blows up and turns into a maquette of what it used to be. Off-screen voices recount childhood memories of summers spent by the sea. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine in 2014, Mariupol and its sea are no longer a safe place. Shot in 2018, Diorama shows the profound weight of living in constant fear of what might happen.
The gravity of this film could not be more pronounced today in the context of a full-scale Russian invasion with Mariupol as its main target. This is how Zoya describes the current situation in her hometown: “Mariupol as a city no longer exists - 95% of the buildings and infrastructure were destroyed and between 20, 000 and 30, 000 people were killed. We don’t know how they were killed, because it is impossible to know because almost the entire city and the territories around it are controlled by Russia. Considering what we saw in Bucha after the Russian withdrawal there, I understand that the same could be seen in Mariupol - hell on earth.”
For Russia, Mariupol is important in order to create a corridor between the already occupied Donbas region and Crimea. But for Ukraine, Mariupol has become a national symbol of resistance. As I am writing this on April 20th, 2022, a commander in Mariupol posted a video with a last plea for help from the Azvostal factory - a shelter holding 1000 civilians, the last place in Mariupol controlled by Ukraine. “This is our last appeal to the world. This could be the last appeal of our lives. We are probably facing our last days, if not hours. We are only defending one object, the Azovstal plant where in addition to military personnel, there are also civilians who have fallen victim to this war. We appeal to all world leaders to help us. We ask them to use the procedure of extraction, and take us to the territory of a third party state.”
I asked Zoya how differently she views her film in the context of what is happening today. She writes: “When I made this film I imagined that if the war continued, that a diorama in a history museum could become the only place where I could access the city and the sea. Today I see that the worst-case scenario that I presented in my film has come true. I'm scared to watch it now. The whole city is destroyed. Even the Mariupol Museum of Local Lore where I shot my last scene burned down and this diorama no longer exists. I can only access it through my film.”
Visual artist, filmmaker, educator