Current History, 2006
34 Mins. 2 channel HD projection
A Basilisk Communications Production
Shot on super 16mm
Current History gives us one day in the life of the Roma Chiline family and others in the village of Beshencevo on the outskirts of Nizhny Novgorod in central Russia. Here we see the contrast between the fabric of the pre-Soviet village and the exhausted post-Soviet city. The present situation in Russia is neither stable nor predictable. We learn that each member of the family is adapting to the changes in different ways.
Against the backdrop of almost abstract and distant political decisions, solace is sought in gambling, religion or superstition. The village’s few remaining children are given a classic education but little means to grasp the forces shaping their lives and choices.
Edouard, a member of the Chiline family, saw some of Collins’ work about spanish Romas in Amsterdam and invited her to his village. After an initial visit she returned in deep winter with a crew. She filmed for fourteen days, working with a script written with Edouard and other Roma villagers. The resulting seven hours of footage have been edited into two film versions, one for a gallery audience and one for a cinema audience.
Current History follows a day in the life of the Roma Chiline family and other inhabitants of Beshencevo. Beshencevo, translated as the ‘mad village’, is situated on the outskirts of Nizhny Novgorod, a city in the Centre of Russia on the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers. During the course of the film the striking difference between the ancient village and dilapidated, Post-Soviet City is explored.
The film highlights the different way in which each member of the Chiline family is adapting to life in Post-Soviet Russia. Yosha, the son, is addicted to slot machines, something which his mother Zinaida, a Roma gypsy living in the old peasant way unaware of the possibility of change, criticises him for. His desperate young wife makes daily visits to the church to pray for a cure for her husband’s addiction.
Valentine, the highly intellectual father and the one person in the village who speaks English, travels to the Volga shore to put a ribbon on the wishing tree, hoping for happiness.
The schoolmistress has been teaching at the old village school for 40 years; now there are only a handful of children left, mostly Kurdish migrants who have never seen a computer and are learning to calculate the way their parents did 30 years ago. Their educational diet contains poetry by Pushkin and the history of their Soviet village but no new information. Traditional village life is contrasted with the new industry of the huge city when Maxim, another member of the Chiline family, goes to work daily in a vodka factory. We also meet its owner, a symbol of the new Russian Capitalist. We are constantly reminded of past and future colliding.
Day and night, village and city, vodka and tea, old and new is there to help reach an honest understanding of the pain and joy that fill the lives of the village inhabitants, whilst humour and strength help them to overcome the difficulties of the old regime and adapt to the changes and contrasts of Russian daily life.