An anti-Semitic Russian gang member learns that his father may have been Jewish. [Dir: Pavel Lounguine/ Oleg Borisov, Andrei Goutine, Natalia Egorova/ 105 min/ Drama, Foreign Language/ Russia/ In Russian with English subtitles/ Social Tolerance]
For many blue-collar Russians, the demise of the Soviet empire brought not tangible benefits, but simply loss of face. Russians are still poor but are no longer part of a great power. Defeated and without hope, they are particularly susceptible to extremist ideas and feelings of intolerance toward others. And that is the situation portrayed here.
There is a great scene at the beginning of this film in which a gang of fascist Russian bodybuilders takes on a Western-looking bike gang, clearing away the foreign influence with characteristic broad-shouldered machismo and a bulldozer. It’s a superb expression of Russian frustration with the triumph of blue jeans and Coca-Cola, and no doubt warmed the heart of many a babushka.
But before you know it, the tables are turned on one of these Russian SS-wannabe’s when he finds out that he might not be as racially “pure” as he thinks. His heretofore unknown father just might have been Jewish. The subsequent search for his father and the psychological transition he must undergo to face his new identity are well portrayed, in scenes that are alternately touching, humorous, and suspenseful. By the end it’s not clear that the protagonist’s father was Jewish after all, but by that time the silliness of dogmas of inherited identity has been demonstrated. It’s a social tolerance theme that libertarians will appreciate and one that’s much needed in the current Russian environment.
The avant-garde style of some scenes will not appeal to everyone, but otherwise this is a superior film with an interesting story and a distinctly Russian comedic sensibility.