Sasha Kulak, Bulgaria│France 2021 “Let us summon the red queen to meet us where the dream ends.”
“Mara” is a complex concept in Slavic cultures. When translated from the Old East Slavic language, it can mean “dream” or “hope.”When given the context of the myths, it harkens to a female goddess who appears during sleep to bring dreams or nightmares. In director Sasha Kulak’s interpretation, Mara isafemale figure in masks and capes who travels through the Belarusian protests against the president Alexander Lukaschenko. Sometimes she sits in trees with children frolicking around her ominous presence or writhes, wrapped in red fabric, on a sandy shore. At other times, she walks amongst the masses of protests, down concrete avenues, a visceral presence juxtaposed next to much humanity, and eventually, violence.
What starts as something of a fever-dream, a poetic and striking piece of art amongst the protests, eventually evolves into realism as the filmmaker fears for her own safetywhenprotesters are rounded up by masked men and thrown into unmarked vehicles. The presence of the Mara figure is both a symbol of the nightmare of government oppression as well as hope for the future. It is rare that a film combines both stark and disturbing documentary footage with highly symbolic visuals in such a narratively effective and emotionally impactful way. MARA is a highlight which should not be missed.