The Chronicles of Melanie
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***Latvia's official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film***
Based on the memoirs of Melanija Vanaga, The Chronicles of Melanie is a terrifying account of the mass deportation of residents of Soviet-occupied Latvia that occurred in June of 1941 as Stalin tightened his grip on power. Melanie, one of over 17,000 people deported to Siberia under suspicion of "collaborating with the enemy," is forcibly separated from her husband Aleksandrs shortly after Soviet troops barge into her home at gunpoint and force her, Aleksandrs and their son Andrejs into a lorry to be transported to awaiting cattle cars. The journey to Siberia lasts 3 weeks aboard the cattle cars, during which a diet of scraps of bread, dirty water and no bathrooms are just the beginning of a long and brutal exile. Most of the deportees are those who are part of families in which one or more members hold prominent positions in government, economy and culture. Aleksander is the editor of a Latvian newspaper and a natural target of Soviet purges.
Out of her detailed notes that later became the literary work of her 16 years spent in Siberia, Melanija Vanaga prepared a book of documentary prose Velupes Krasta, which was published in 1991, soon after Latvia regained independence. Later, it served as the concluding volume in Vanaga's seven-book series The Gathering of Souls about the personal history of her family and Latvia.
WINNER - Best Cinematography - Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Jeonju Int'l Film Festival
WINNER - Special Jury Prize - Prishtina Int'l Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Camerimage Film Festival ---
...[A] potent account of the human cost of Soviet ethnic cleansing in the Baltic region…The distorted sound creates a sense of delirium; the painfully slow movements of the malnourished women gives the film a nightmarish quality. Time slows down, both for the exiled Latvian women and also, at times, for the audience. It all amounts to a challenging viewing experience. --Screen Daily
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Incredible acting, realistic surroundings and nothing positive except her strength of will. Tough to watch.
This movie could have easily been about a communal farm, instead of a camp for "Enemies of the People". I was going to show it to my kids, so they could learn a bit about what their grandparents faced,but changed my mind after watching the movie.