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Young Sasha is brought into a state-run children's home because his mother died early and his father spends most of his life in prison. The conditions are like in a penal institution. Sasha tries several times to escape and to search for his father. Written by
Mirko Thiessen <email@example.com>
I'd heard a lot about this film when it won the Montreal Film Festival back in 1989, but only recently had opportunity to see it.
It doesn't provide any answers to the problem of how to handle so many lost children in the former Soviet union and although "entertaining" in its own right, it feels more documentary then story.
Young Sasha is immediately likable, obviously a smart kid and would seeming be wanted by anyone looking to adopt a child - in Western culture. But back in the USSR, he's shuffled off "through the system" and maintained in prison-like schools. Sasha toughens himself, commits petty crimes and takes his beatings without complaint, to prove he's a man, but the strength of this film is showing not this boy's resolve, but rather peel away to reveal a boy's sensitivity and a desire to just be a child for the few years allowed. All of this leads him to (repeated) escapes from the "school" in search of his father - a man whom he's never met.
That their brief "reunion" comes late, ends at a prison and is ineffably awkward makes its poignancy all the stronger. We learn things about Sasha's father that show the futility of that system and the toll it took - and takes - on generations of innocents forced to make their way by any means of survival possible regardless of outcome.
A tough film to watch, despite its downbeat ending, one wants to believe something better is in store for Sasha. Until grim reality sets in.
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