About the film

Father, Son and Holy Torum

Director: Mark Soosaar. Weiko Saawa Film, Estonia, 1997. 1 h 30'


David Walsh:

Father, Son and Holy Torum, by Estonian director Mark Soosaar, recounts a particularly ghastly episode in the history of the "new Russia." The film examines the fate of the Khanty people inwestern Siberia who have been more or less swindled out of their ancestral lands by Russian oil and gas companies.

A couple, Shosho and Tohe, lives deep in the forests, getting by in traditional fashion. Their son, Petja, however, has become the director of the oil and gas companies' department of indigenous peoples, the department "for fooling people," as he describes it himself. Three oil companies, including Komsomol Oil, have divided the Khanty families among them. The task of individuals like Petja is to get the families to sign away the rights to their land, for a few hundred dollars. One man in
a hospital bed signs his land away, for no payment at all.

A public meeting held to discuss the situation is simply demoralizing. The Khantys themselves, confused and dwindling in numbers, are no match for the companies. "Bring in better booze," is all that one man asks.

Shosho and Tohe treat their son as an errant child. They scold him for not visiting more often. They turn to their supreme god, Torum, and pray for deliverance. "Why do the evil go unpunished?" they ask. "Let those filthy ones be destroyed!" Meanwhile Petja goes on making deals on his cell-phone. Unfortunately, the generally filthy environment seems to have an impact on the film itself, encouraging at times something of a cynical tone.

From: The camera never lies ...: Documentaries and semi-documentaries at the San Francisco film festival