January 01, 2021

Movies, Modernism, and Moscow Archaeology

Movies, Modernism, and Moscow Archaeology

A new Russian mini-biopic tells the story of one day in the life of Yelizaveta Glinka, a charismatic palliative care specialist who ran a charity in Moscow and died in a 2016 plane crash that also killed 63 members of the renowned Alexandrov Ensemble on their way to Syria.

Dr. Liza, as Glinka was known, is shown in the film spreading herself thin helping the city’s destitute, caring for the homeless at one of Moscow’s train stations, and struggling to find morphine for a little girl with terminal cancer, which lands her in trouble with the police.

Glinka is portrayed by Chulpan Khamatova, one of Russia’s top actresses, who is herself a leading charity figure. Dr. Liza’s work was the subject of multiple controversies: she escorted over 500 injured children from war-ravaged eastern Ukraine to Russian hospitals, for example, prompting the Ukrainian government to accuse her of kidnapping. Russian state propaganda, meanwhile, had elevated Glinka to the level of virtual sainthood. The film does not delve into politics but shows how Glinka coped with impossible situations created by life in Russia, and how she got involved when the reasonable thing would have been to stand aside.

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