Un Certain Regard | Update : 06.05.19 . 3:28 PM

Tesnota (Closeness), meeting with Kantemir Balagov

Film still of Tesnota (Closeness)

Film still of Tesnota (Closeness) © RR

1998, in the north of Russian Caucasus. A young man and his fiancée are kidnapped and their freedom is subject to payment of a ransom. Tesnota (Closeness) is Kantemir Balagov's first film and is based on a true story; it questions family ties.

What inspired you to begin work on this film?

First of all, I wanted to show what the North Caucasus is, since this territory has hardly been explored in cinema. Second, the central storyline of the film is based on a true story. The main issues in this story are human relations in a family, cultural differences and interpersonal relations. While working on the story and characters, I questioned the main perceived truth in family relations: the need for self-sacrifice.


Please share a few words about your actors…

I was adamant that the Jewish character should be played by a Jewish actor, and the Kabardian parts by Kabardians. It was a question of credibility, of narrative truth. I had a casting director who worked tirelessly looking for actors in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. We found Daria Jovner in Moscow; she had just completed her studies at Moscow Art Theatre. Her parents are theatre actors from Saint Petersburg. The kidnapped brother is a cook, not a professional actor - even though he has appeared in a film by Aleksey German. Jr. Zalim, the Kabardian boyfriend, is a professional actor who studied at the famous Shchukin Theatre Institute in Moscow. We brought him and his fellow actors from Nalchik to Saint Petersburg.


What did you learn during the course of making this film?

Cinema is about movement: inside and outside. The movement of a story,  and its characters… the movement of sound and image. This movement is about absolutely all its components, and it should never stop. Everything should keep moving to let the film take its course. This is the most important thing I learned during this work.


What are your views on the state of the film industry in your country?

Unfortunately, it's very difficult for young directors to make films in Russia, and almost impossible to make films in the Caucasus. The entire film industry is concentrated either on already famous filmmakers or on commercial projects; there is no room for the debuts of young directors. The only exception is the "Example of Intonation" fund, founded in Saint Petersburg by director Alexander Sokurov. Without his assistance, as well as that of the producer Nikolay Yankin, my film would never have materialised. I will always be grateful to these people, and I hope that the participation of "Tesnota" in the "Un certain regard" programme of the Cannes Film Festival will help to birth a national cinema in Caucasus, home to a number of very talented young actors.


Can you tell us about your next project?

I’m working on another script, also based on a true story. For the moment, I’m writing alone.

Written by Benoit Pavan

Share the page
Un Certain Regard


Kantemir BALAGOV

RUSSIA - 2017



The same day