August 15, 2023

To Stay and Survive

To Stay and Survive
Film director Elizaveta Stishova.

Independent film director Elizaveta Stishova and a team from the Berlin-based Russian-language OstWest television channel have released the documentary film, Save and Be Saved («Спасись и сохранись»), about the struggles of four young men to avoid fighting in Ukraine, including by applying for alternative civilian service[1]. In parallel with these stories, we hear thoughts on the war in Ukraine and what is happening in Russia from a varied assortment of long-distance train travelers: an elderly woman, Wagner Group fighters returning from Donbas, a refugee from Ukraine, and a long-haired yogi.

A correspondent for the independent news outlet 7x7 spoke with Elizaveta Stishova about how Russians talk about the war and about people willing to fight for their rights against the odds.

I had to start making documentaries, because I simply couldn’t make narrative films on abstract subjects now. Naturally, when the war broke out, I started to wonder: “What kind of people are we?” And from being furious at Russians I arrived at a desire to make films about heroes, about people who stand up for themselves. For example, the previous film, War and Mirny: The Story of a Russian Family [«Война и Мирный. История одной российской семьи», about the family of an environmental activist from Shiyes[2]], features an absolutely heroic woman who was forced to flee the country. Yana Troyanova and I are also planning to make a short about [Irina] Slavina [the Nizhny Novgorod journalist who died in an act of self-immolation protesting oppression by the authorities in 2020]. It has become really important to me to show that such people exist. In that sense, I’m working as an advocate for the Russian individual.

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