Sunday, April 15, 2007


Original title: Italianetz
In Russian with English subtitles

With the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) in December 1991, that part of the union known as Russian is now the Russian Federation. Many socio-economic problems have yet to be resolved including the hoards of children abandoned by parents who have no means of supporting them much less able to feed themselves.

According to Russia's Health Ministry there are some 700,000 children and teenagers living in state-run orphanages. Only 15,000 or so graduate from these institutions every year.

Couples wishing to adopt a child through the state-run adoption agency must complete a home study course, get criminal clearance and provide medical reports along with other forms. There are some age restrictions imposed on the potential adopting couples: they must be older than 25, if they are over 40 years old they can only have a child 2 years and older, if they are over 50 they cannot adopt at all. Not surprising there is an underground illegal adoption process to by-pass all this.

Maria Kuznetsova: Madam, an “adoption arranger”
Nikolai Reutov: Grisha, her right-hand man
Yuri Itskov: Director of an orphanage
Kolya Spiridonov: 6-year-old Vanya Sonetsiv
Denis Moiseenko: Kolyan, leader of some older residents
Olga Shuvalova: Irka, one of the gang

Rather than being a condemnation of the Russian orphanage system, this is really a story about people coping with it. The drab landscape and run down buildings of Russian back in 2002 mirrors to some extent the lives of these orphans. It is not an inviting place at all.

Although centred on one person’s dilemma, we get to see some of the real Russian, not the stuff of glossy pamphlets. Touching at times, it is not in any sense a “weepy” movie but one of thoughtful reflection.

for some sexual content, mild language and some drug references.

It comes up so quickly right at the end that it is difficult to discern that the letter being read is from Vanya’s friend who is now living in Italy.

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