CPH:DOX Review: Life of Ivanna

Ivanna smoking a cigarette

It’s tough being a single mother wherever you are. Juggling work, home and the children. Always having to look after someone else. Always on high alert for the next problem or potential disaster lurking just round the corner. It’s hard enough doing that in a modern city with plenty of space and as much money as you need to comfortably live on. Imagine trying to raise a brood of children on your own, in a small house in the middle of nowhere.

Ivanna is a twenty-six-year-old mother of five. She had high hopes for life but finds herself living in the arctic tundra of north-western Siberia, struggling to eke out a living. Driving a small herd of reindeer who are slowly dying. Carrying on a family tradition. She’s estranged from her husband Gena who moved to the city for a job, but spends most of his time drinking. Renato Borrayo Serrano spends four years observing her life in his new documentary, Life of Ivanna.

Life of Ivanna is one of those rare films which combines an extremely charismatic lead with beautifully artistic direction. As the camera follows Ivanna through her ups and down, from the remote boreal vastness to the faded neon of Norilsk, we’re given a window into her life. It’s a forthright documentary which doesn’t flinch during the more difficult moments. Life of Ivanna is a compelling portrait of a tough and determined woman.

Life of Ivanna screens at CPH:DOX.

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