EIFF Review: Stop-Zemlia


The classroom can be a lonely and miserable place when you’re an outsider, standing on the sidelines while everyone else seems to be having so much fun. School is a happy time for many but lots of teenagers struggle with the challenges transitioning between childhood to adulthood can bring. The number of adolescents dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming etc continues to rise. When you feel like a misfit it’s natural to seek out your own kind. This is the bond at the heart of Stop-Zemlia.

Masha (Maria Fedorchenko) is in a state of suspended animation, caught between the last days of an unhappy childhood and the uncertainty of entering adult life. Introverted and withdrawn, the teenager finds solace in the company of two other outsiders, Yana (Yana Isaienko) and Senia (Arsenii Markov). When Masha falls for Sasha (Oleksandr Ivanov), an aloof boy in class with his own issues, she suddenly finds herself outside of her comfort zone.

Stop-Zemlia’s strength is in its authenticity. The pacing and tone of writer/director Kateryna Gornostai’s feature debut affords it a naturalistic feel, enhanced by the inclusion of ‘graduation?’ interviews. These characters exude vulnerability. Not mere stereotypes but believable portrayals of young people with their own unique fears and foibles. A strong linear narrative is eschewed in favour of a more experimental approach, giving Stop-Zemlia a certain texture rather than a message.

Stop-Zemlia screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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