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Hot Docs 2020: “Immortal” ★★★


Sometimes there is no need for dialogue to convey the intended message; holding hands, looking in the eye, a smile, gesture, or body language say more than any word can.

“Immortal” follows the inhabitants of a north-western industrial town in Russia where people, knowingly or not, become a tool and a resource for the state. By looking at them, you’d realize they’re proud to serve their Mother Russia, yet are seen living lives as if they’ve been forgotten by the whole world. The GULAG labor camp was once built under the rule of Stalin. It served only one purpose – to industrialize the Arctic. Therefore, all the political opponents would be sent on exile there. But once Stalin died, people decided to stay, either because of an immortal ideology, hope, or optimism that seemingly has nothing positive to offer.

The film opens with a younger generation of cadets, pilots, soldiers, or even just children who must get trained to become the best warrior for their country. As young men fulfill their duty, the little girls are learning ballet. When the camera focuses on their trainer, the sign on her shirt clearly states, “Optimism is a lifestyle,” which is the exact situation of entire Russia told in 4 words. As the story unfolds, the camera, as a silent witness, continues effortlessly to capture the life-defining moment of those who are not aware they’re being brainwashed. Indeed, the ideology is strong and well, sound and alive.

However, there’s always a desire in every human being to have a better life for themselves. But the heroes of “Immortal” don’t think that way nor pretend it. They not only allow, which is perfectly clear, the system to manipulate them or even own them, they feel special about themselves as if they were about to be sent to the Moon. This is why watching “Immortal” is heartbreaking. But it sends a powerful message to the entire world; be afraid not of a free spirit that can free itself anytime, but the one that thinks is free but can’t free itself under any circumstance.

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