Harvard educated Darya Zhuk was based out of the US when she decided to take up filmmaking, and she accomplished that by going back to Belarus, her country of origin, for her quirky, colourful and perceptive directorial debut Crystal Swan. Set during the transition period of the 90s, Minsk here is an eccentric mishmash of its socialist past and its proto-capitalist present, and an oddball representation of that was achieved through a giant Lenin statue forming the backdrop in a nightclub playing electronic music. The movie’s strikingly captivating heroine is Velya (brilliantly brought to life by Alina Nasbullina) – a law graduate turned DJ – who loves her shocking blue wig, and has fallen trap to the lure of the ‘American Dream’. She craves to travel to Chicago, propelled by her love for house music, even though she has scant chances of securing a visa. Hence, she puts in a false telephone number in her application, to give the impression that she has a stable job here and thus a strong reason to come back. However, when she learns that the embassy will call on that number to verify her employment status, she must find a way to intercept that. As it turns out, the number belongs to a dysfunctional household in the countryside, and that the family is preparing for the marriage of their embittered eldest son (Ivan Mulin) who gets enticed by this aloof city girl. Woman’s agency, the desire for freedom, painful coming-of-age and poignant journey back home formed the film’s central themes. Interestingly, the deadpan irony of the working class making crystals which fetch absurd prices in Western Europe provided a salty commentary in how capital operates.
Director: Darya Zhuk
Genre: Drama/Social Drama