At the risk of sounding like a suck up, I just want to write that what I like about festivals like Hot Docs is that it exposes viewers to international stories. These stories also deal with those national identities and how tenuous they are. That in some people’s lifetimes, bordering countries were once belligerents within an empire or a union. “Karasu!”, chant a man, Zdzislaw Torhan and his granddaughter, documentary filmmaker Zofia Kowalewska. They drive to that town in Siberia, near the Kazakh border.
Zdzislaw points out the lights that are there now that weren’t there before, surprised that the new Russian government would even bother build fixtures to light the roads there. They approach and reach a motel where he expects a mill and a river was. See, Zdzislaw and Zofia drove all the way from Poland, the former being one of the Polish boys who the Soviets sent to camps. One like the one in Kurasuk during the 1940s. He returns to find both a woman he crushed on and his sister’s grave.
Torhan is 92 and Zofia is 25. The differences between generations is seismic. And at the risk of sounding grumpy and old, half of the people who are Kowalewska’s age are indifferent. Many don’t care about the history that Torhan has endured. It’s bittersweet to see Zofia being part of the other half of the demographic who cares about both the history and the man who holds it. It’s sweet because she cares and bitter because of the pain that goes with his history. Only The Wind takes Kowalewska’s philosophy a step further with scenes that show her caring for Torhan and not just because she wants a story out of him. There’s a longer version of this bit this version is good enough.
Only the Wind gets its Hot Docs premiere on May 1, 2022.