Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Astrakan 79

Portuguese Martim’s parents were members of the Communist Party, and their son’s worldview was built on that foundation. When Martim was 15 years old, in 1979, he left Lisbon to travel to the Soviet Union to study, because he wanted to be a part of the youth movement who were laying the foundations of a bright new future. The train journey from Moscow to Astrakan, a town in the south near the Caspian Sea, is long, and the endless unchanging scenery makes the boy wonder what he has gotten himself into.

This brave new world was not quite as brave as he had imagined, and alienation began to consume Martim. He photographed a lot, sometimes in secret, and started making critical observations about Soviet society. He wrote postcards home, but after a while did not even bother to send them. He pretended that he was 18 years old, had love affairs, drank heavily, got estranged from his school, and started living aimlessly. After only a year and a half, he returned home. 

The film’s atmosphere is calm and wistful. Pictures are static, zooming is slow. In the present day of the narrative, the film’s central idea is reached, as Martim begins to relate his own youth to his son for the first time. The father has concealed this brief but very important part of his own life in a cloak of failure and shame. Now, father and son are both artists and begin to fill in the void that silence has created between them. 

Mervi Herranen (translated by Herman Tikkanen)

Catarina Mourão is present in the screening of her film Astrakan79 on Thu, Feb 1.

Language: Portuguese, Russian
Subtitles: English
Length: 64 min
Age Limit: K7
Year: 2023
Production Country: Portugal

Director: Catarina Mourão
Producer: Leonor Noivo, Luísa Homem, João Matos, Pedro Pinho, Susana Nobre, Tiago Hespanha, Catarina Mourão, Catarina Alves Costa
Production Company: Terratreme Filmes, Laranja Azul
Distribution Company: Portugal Film - Portuguese Film Agency
Screenplay: Catarina Mourão
Editing: Pedro Mateus Duarte
Cinematographer: Paulo Menezes
Sound Design: Armanda Carvalho, Hugo Leitão