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Identification: a thriller about everything at once

On the Premier service, two episodes of the thriller Identification, a long-term series about a girl who is suspected of killing her brother-in-law, have been released. The main role in the show was played by the star of "Happy End" Lena Tronina, who invented and filmed the story of Vladlen Sandu, a student of Alexei Uchitel. Film critic Pavel Voronkov reflects on the problems of "Identification" with self-identification. “I wanted my modern Russia to also remain in time,” this is how director Vladlena Sandu, a graduate of Alexei Uchitel, explains the appearance of her series Identification.

In it, a girl named Valeria (Lena Tronina from Happy End), a worker at a Moscow clothing market, converts to Islam and marries a dental clinic intern, Aman (Anvar Osmonaliev), representative of the Kyrgyz diaspora. At the wedding, Bakir (Kuralbek Chokoev), the groom's brother and the bride's employer, tries to rape Valeria in the toilet. Later, his body is found there. All evidence points to the girl (who does not seem to be who she claims to be), but the stubborn lawyer Kramer (Roman Vasiliev, Vronsky in the upcoming Anna K) and the tired investigator Plakhov ( Oleg Vasilkov) doubt her guilt.

The main problem of "Identification" is in non-obvious (sorry) self-identification. Bearing in mind the palpably meager range of topics that Russian cinematographers take up today (due to censorship or stereotypes sitting in their heads), Sandu's show seems to be trying to be everything at once - to fill as many gaps as possible in one fell swoop. Multinationality and multi-confessional state. Violence against women and the frequent lack of clear consequences for the rapist. Discrimination against people with disabilities. Corruption in the executive authorities. Torture in prisons. And that's just the first two episodes.

In the pursuit of comprehensiveness, Identification inevitably leaves some of the questions and problems out of focus (in a good way - a separate series is needed for each of the points above). And on the way to destigmatization, she inadvertently reproduces the patterns that she plans to get rid of. Around the main character, who was at least twice tried to rape, a strange haze of distrust is formed, addressed specifically to the viewer (at this stage, it is not at all clear what “Identification” means here, which for some reason does not show the murder scene itself, but also pretends that the concept of "self-defense" does not exist). Lawyer Kramer, who is already unlucky enough to deal with the Russian judicial system, also lives with cerebral palsy (and the artist Vasiliev, of course, does not; we will return to this), and the series seems to be trying to look at him without humiliation and condescension. But, for example, the episode of a difficult ascent up the steps of the Moscow Regional Court is for some reason accompanied by emphatically broken, sinister electronics.

The most unfortunate thing, however, is that the series cannot get rid of the colonialist optics and remains in a coordinate system that suggests the presence of some kind of “titular nation”. Russian cinema has a rather disgusting habit of putting single-voiced Russian voiceovers on top of any non-Russian speech, and Identification, where half of the characters speak Kyrgyz half the time, does not change this habit. These people remain "strangers", "newcomers" even here - in the show, whose creator intended to portray the "multicultural field" of Moscow. A city about which today one can easily make a film without a single word in Russian (this idea is often repeated by film producer and podcaster Ivan Filippov). The voices of these people in "Identification" are literally muffled - until they switch to "acceptable", "understandable" language.

The desire to talk about what is not customary to talk about, and to show the normality of what is considered abnormal, is certainly commendable. But it is necessary to be aware that an outsider - a person for whom this or that experience is not personal - will not have enough depth of immersion in the question to begin to see through the eyes of others. There will always be tiny, but blind spots. That is why it is necessary that stories about women on the screen be told primarily by women themselves (in this sense, Identification is an important and necessary project). That is why it is necessary that actors with cerebral palsy play heroes with cerebral palsy (with all due respect to Vasiliev's talent).

Vladlena Sandu, as they say in Premier, went to Kyrgyzstan to recruit actors and actively used the services of consultants (the wedding in the first episode seems to be shown accurately), but there was not a single person with Kyrgyz roots among the authors of the show. “The time of women in directing and in roles has definitely come,” says Sandu. This is true. I would like to believe that the time of the principle “nothing about us without us” will soon come.

Identification: a thriller about everything at once