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    some notes on the film “Litva”: trying to see ourselves in figure of other

    | 2006-06-20 | 09:57
    temos: VMS

    During the first VMS we have screened TV film, which shows how does Belarusian state’s media see Lithuania today? It is a good sample of Belarusian ideological soft-core film; an ideological hard-core is much more dangerous for your mental health.

    TV film “Litva” is a part of television documentary series “Fifteen”, which was broadcasted on Belarusian TV-channel ONT (Obchenazionalnoe Televidenie) from February 20th till March 9th 2006. “Documentary” TV series “Fifteen” represents fifteen former soviet republics today, fifteen years after collapse of USSR[i].

    Each part of series was showed two times per day (in the morning and in the evening) without interruptions of advertising breaks. Most likely it was not commercial reason: this TV-series was a part of campaign of ideology interpellation in althusserian sense.


    “Potato Brothers”

    Each part of the series begins with five minutes duration film (so called short film inside the film), which, in authors’ opinion, should create a certain atmosphere for succeeding show and wake memories about the gone Soviet epoch.

    According to Aleksandr Rydvan, producer of the project, “all prologue episodes are made in short cinema film style. There are fifteen of them – as well as parts of the series. A basis of every such episode is a real-like story, which, we believe, is the one connecting both cinema-style and documentary parts”. For the first time TV channel has resolved for an unusual experiment: it has interconnected in one project two genres – art film and documentary film. And for a TV viewer it means that, if we take on trust the real-like prologue story, we will not stop to do it till the end of film.

    In every short film the action takes place in a train, but there is not clear where to this train is going. The viewer can guess that the train is somewhere in the former Soviet Union or in the post-soviet space. Such possible location could be seen as a metaphor of societies in transition, a transition, which had and has no clear directions. People are going by train without knowing directions of their movement: back or forward, to the left or to the right? It is like a problem of finding point of view for the narrative.

    Speaking about the short film about Lithuanian national dish “Cepelinai”, I believe, that some viewers outside from Belarus or Lithuania can interpret this message as following: Belarusian and Lithuanian are potato brothers. Potatoes are this thing that brings us together… Like a new slogan: “Potatoes: connecting people”.

    I think that Belarusian TV had chosen its point of view in the Soviet past. This is the first my statement: a Belarusian TV talks about actual situation from the past perspective and it is some kind of perversion of narration: talking about present and future, but looking only to the past, without changing optics or direction of view.


    Belarusian magic glasses for reality

    My second statement sound like this: the figure of Other is constructed from Belarusian perspective, and by Belarusian “templates” of reality.

    While talking about “templates” of reality I actually mean some criteria or framework, which media have, and which are important in social space. It is like an idea, that we can divide social reality into different dimensions and propose to audience independent “levels”: economy, politics, society, culture, sport etc. I can add that newspapers unsuccessfully try to realize this segmentation during several last centuries. The concept did not deal with different relations and influences inside the society and did not conceive representation as a process of construction. Media like it, because it gives the possibility to say what is important for us, and what is not important.

    But Belarusian “templates” of reality includes all official criteria of social-economical development: agriculture, inhabitants, youth politics, export and mass production. We have the situation, where authorities articulate what is important, and media construct reality according to this framework: day after day in TV news program. But trying to adapt this framework for any other country, we can find a lot of problems related with the same issues there.


    For external use only

    The main paradoxical problem in the film is a desire to compare Belarus and Lithuania today, although we are never introduced to results of this comparative study, except the brotherhood established with the help of potatoes and “Cepelinai”.

    This framework is like colored sun-glasses: we can everyday change the color of environment, but we should watch through our glasses only to outer world and never to ourselves. For example, students’ demonstration in Vilnius: the audience is introduced to events in Lithuania, but not the comparison of situation in Belarus and Vilnius. So they miss the fact, that for example similar students’ demonstration in Belarus would be impossible at all.

    And here we come to my third statement:  from a first sight, it is a film about Lithuania, but indirect it is a film about Belarus, about Belarusian way of development. The film has a lot of keywords (psychological “anchors”)  for Belarusian spectators with the background of viewing national television news programs. 

    Although during the film we do not hear any single word about Belarus, indirect comparison is obviously present. Journalists try to make an objective film, but objective from official point of view of Belarus.  You can follow situations in different post-soviet countries, but you should not to compare Other countries to Belarus. There exists only one legitimated comparison: comparing present-day Other and Other of idealistic soviet past. Of course in such case soviet past is recognized as “the golden age”. Talking about the former Soviet Union, Belarusian state journalists use specific lexicon for identifying some realia: for example saying “After disintegration of the Soviet Union” is something totally different than “After collapse/crash of the Soviet Union”.

    Authors of the film use nearly all soviet period stereotypes about the Baltic state, for example, fear of big Russian Ivan. But these stereotypes simply disguise similar Belarusian problems, such as energy and energy resources (gas, oil and transit) related issues.

    And my open question for discussion concerns the definition of ideological movies of this type: is film “Litva” a documentary or is it some kind of fantasy movie?

    [i] After having written the sentence my text-processor “Atlantis” proposed me to change USSR into USER! Only fifteen years passed away and computer dictionary has already forgotten about the last Empire…


    temos: VMS |

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