FILM/EVENT REVIEW: Extinction & Projections launch @ Tyneside Cinema | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Transnistria has the curious distinction of being a place that is both somewhere and nowhere at the same time. The non-recognised state that spans the area between the Dniester river and Ukraine was once part of the Moldovan SSR, and since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has been considered part of Moldova, including by the UN. It exists in a space between real and unreal.

As a filmmaker, Salomé Lamas claims to be interested in spaces and sites that seem otherwise impenetrable. It’s unsurprising then that Transnistria forms the backbone of her film Extinction, showing as part of Tyneside Cinema’s new series Projections. The series aims to bring artists’ moving image works to the cinema screen; Extinction is almost the perfect film to kick off the project as within it exists an almost perfect blend between the realistic and the artistic, fiction and non-fiction. The way in which Lamas often shoots Extinction lies between the lines of Russian filmmakers such as Tarkovsky and German Expressionism. She casts her subjects in cinematically striking ways, often casting heavy, looming shadows across the screen as a combination of orchestral and shuddering electronic music plays alongside the images. There are times when only audio can be heard and the screen is black for minutes at a time, a result of being unable to film at borders but Lamas choosing to record actual, insightful conversations.

The central themes often wrap around the figure of a young man, Kolja. In her post-screening Q&A, Lamas also explains that she enjoys playing with the borders between fiction and non-fiction and in Kolja, the film straddles this line. Through much of the film we witness Kolja as a vehicle for a loose narrative about the sheer difficulty of crossing borders in this land, the amount of bureaucracy involved and the fear that Transnistrians have even over their own lives. However, it is later revealed that Kolja is not a mute protagonist for the audience to project themselves on to; on the contrary, he is very much a real supporter of Transnistria, and becomes almost aggressively defensive when asked about Russian involvement with the state. Much like Transnistria itself, he is two things at once, torn between different existences within the actual film.

Sometimes the concepts and ideas offered by Extinction seem fast-moving and difficult to take in all at once; it may take more than one screening to grasp the full breadth of what Lamas has to offer both cinematically and thematically here. Nevertheless, at a time when the concept of borders are coming under ever-increasing scrutiny, Extinction offers a deeply thought-provoking mediation on ideas of nationhood, power, bureaucracy and freedom. To slightly paraphrase a line from the film: our souls don’t have borders.

Projections continues on Wednesday 16th May, Thursday 24th May, and Thursday 28th June.

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