23 February 2023 – 1 April 2023
Pushkin House presents the latest film by Ruth Maclennan, shot in Russia and finished one day before the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Consisting of disjointed narratives, A Forest Tale portrays the complex world of the subarctic boreal forests of Russia, which serves as both a habitat and a source of life for a large and diverse community of people. They use state-of-the-art machines – and at the same time enthusiastically revive obsolete technologies that offer the potential of a sustainable alternative; look for answers in the past of their families – and consider leaving their life in the North behind; and actively participate in the lives of their communities – while having to rely on their own resilience.
Ruth Maclennan: “This film was shot over two weeks in December 2021 in remote areas of European Arctic Russia. The northern winter is a time for gathering round a fire to find comfort and delight in sharing stories and food. The unfinished stories in A Forest Tale are collectively made, words in motion, fashioned by hand, voice and long experience, tales of a place through time. Time here is elastic, playing backwards and forwards, as people and forest hold out against present threats including climate change, industrial logging and political adventurism, working to survive and flourish in the future. The trees – larch, pine, fir and birch – and forests are the matter and world of these stories and lives, incarnate in the houses, tools, artefacts, food and heat.
While A Forest Tale was being filmed, Russia was assembling thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine, and a sense of foreboding was in the air. We spoke of our fears of what might be about to happen. But the film was finished before the invasion of Ukraine, and therefore it seems important to let the voices and places of that moment speak for themselves, and not distort them with hindsight. Something good happened in that little corner of Russia, though the war can make it hard for people to appreciate that anymore. A film, at least for its duration, replays that elastic time again, conjuring a ‘what if’ to replace the desperate feeling of ‘if only’.”
A Forest Tale was produced in collaboration with the Arctic Art Institute and Film and Video Umbrella (funded by Arts Council England).
In conversation event 24th April, with Ruth Maclennan, Charles Emmerson (author of The Future History of the Arctic), Ekaterina Sharova (Artistic Director of the Arctic Art Institute) and Denis Stolyarov, assistant curator, Pushkin House.