Socrates of Kamchatka, (documentary) 5 min. sampler


a film by Irina Patkanian

“Socrates of Kamchatka” blends documentary and fiction to tell a story about a “new Russian” entrepreneur Anfisa and her horse Socrates. From the documentary thread of the film we learn the story of Anfisa during the past 30 years: a happy childhood during Brezhnev’s totalitarian socialism of the 1980s; hard times during Yeltsin’s chaotic 1990s; founding and running a successful tourist company during Putin’s nationalism of the 2000s. In 2010 Anfisa acquired four horses for her company. In 2012 her horses were killed for no other reason, but to “punish” Anfisa for her economic success. One of them was called Socrates.

Socrates’ stylized voiceover narration forms the fiction thread of the film. “From the horse’s mouth,” so to speak, we gain a somewhat absurdist and humorous perspective on the last 30 years of humans’ plight. Throughout the film, fatally wounded Socrates is walking back home to Anfisa and “reminisces” about their life together: a common childhood in a village, which (he thinks) was called “Socialism.” There, people “worked all day and then came home and watched work on television.” He recalls their common youth in “Communism” – an abandoned town deep in Kamchatka woods, “where people were very happy and had many communist parties.” Finally, he reflects on their strange time in the “town of Tourism,” “where humans do the same things they do at home: eat, sleep and sit down, but for cash and money.”

Socrates’ voiceover is written in the tradition of “skaz” – a Russian subliterary idiom. Humorous and sad, mixing folk lyricism and newspaper verbiage, opinion and fact, Socrates’ subliterary poeticity echoes and subverts the conventions of mainstream discourse.

written/directed/edited/produced by Irina Patkanian
shot by Steven Ross and Gus Ford
Music by Misha Piatigorsky
with Sang Pil Bae as voice of Socrates

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