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MAMAY

Director: OLES SANIN

UKRAINE • 2003 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 80 MIN


A contender for 2003’s best foreign-language film Oscar, this visually striking feature debut by Oles Sanin resurrects the Ukrainian poetic film tradition pioneered by Sergei Parajanov (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors). Inspired by a 16th century legend that appears in both Ukrainian and Tartar texts, the film tells of a Christian named Umai (Andrei Bilous) and his two brothers, who escape from a mine they’re being forced to work in as slaves by Tartar conquerors. Umai’s brothers find horses, but he’s left to escape on foot. A nomadic Tartar woman (Viktoria Spesivtseva) rescues an exhausted Umai, restores him to health and renames him ‘Mamay’ (a Tartar word meaning ‘nobody’). The pair fall in love and marry, but the woman’s Muslim brothers cannot accept their sister’s marriage to a Christian. A plot synopsis does Mamay scant justice, since the film feels more like a work of folkloric painting brought to life than a piece of traditional cinematic storytelling. Buried somewhere beneath the ravishing images and beautiful music is a timely plea for cross-cultural tolerance.

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