- 48 min.
The setting is a Russian living room. The children are playing a game, their father is cooking and the baby is lying fast asleep. The only person missing is their mother. She has just been arrested, charged with state treason and is now facing up to 20 years in prison. The camera captures this scene and others like it in four different living rooms where fractured families try to go about their daily lives. It’s the very ordinariness of the images that makes the absence of one parent so tangible. In the background, we hear telephone conversations that betray the feelings of powerlessness and despair. The domestic scenes are intercut with shots of the street through the window, accompanied by the reading of letters from Soviet political prisoners to their children. Blackboard drawings tell the story of the absent parents, each sentenced to jail terms ranging from four to eight years. Officially, their crime was treason or drug possession, but all they actually did was to express criticism of government policy at some point. The domestic scenes draw attention to these ordinary citizens who simply disappear behind bars for years, offering an alternative and poignant perspective on the notion of the “political prisoner.”