“All my poems are about love and death; there are no other themes” – wrote Boris Ryzhy, the famous young Russian poet in 2000. “But despite everything, I’m happy with my wife and son.” A year later this charming hooligan poet hung himself. He was just 26 years old.
As the filmmaker embarks on a quest to understand the reasons for his suicide, she reveals the hidden tragedy of the lost perestroika generation, to whom Boris gave a voice. “We were thrown out of communism, but never reached capitalism” as his young widow puts it. The perestroika years of the Jeltsin era, which the West associated with democracy and freedom, felt very different in the lawless streets of Yekaterinenburg, where gangsters slaughtered each other on a daily basis. In the snow-covered cemetery the faces of Boris’ classmates stare out from black marble tombstones.
But despite this grim reality, it’s a poetic film with a tragic-comic touch. It’s ultimately about Boris’ love for life: through his poems, pain is transformed into grace.
Dutch director Aliona van der Horst has directed four international award-winning documentaries. She was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1970 and studied Russian literature at the University of Amsterdam and film at the Dutch Film and Television Academy. She began her career in 1997 with the much-acclaimed The Lady with the White Hat and since then has received multiple awards for most of her films, among them the Special Jury Prize at the Tribeca film festival for Voices of Bam (2006), and the Grand Prix of the FIFA Montreal for The Hermitage Dwellers (2004). Recently she has received the Jan Kassies award by the Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund, for outstanding achievement. For her latest documentary Boris Ryzhy (2008) she received the ‘Silver Wolf Award’ at the IDFA 2008, Best Documentary Award at Edinburgh Filmfestival 2009 , the Award of the Dutch Filmjournalists and the Special Jury Prize at the FIFA, Montréal.
Written an directed by Aliona van der Horst
Camera and Editing: Maasja Ooms, Aliona van der Horst
Sound design: Tom Bijnen
Line producer: Jorinde Sorée, Frederik Nicolaï
Production assistant: Charlotte Sarneel
Production during development: Jaap van Hoewijk, Jessica Gorter
Commissioning editor VPRO: Saskia van Schaik