Ivanna is a Nenets woman in her late twenties, who in her teens had to give up her studies after getting pregnant and is now for all intents and purposes a single mother of five rambunctious children. She lives with her children on the tundra in a tiny sled hut, mastering by necessity the traditional jobs of men and women alike. Ivanna’s life is harsh and arduous, and she yearns for a change. Like many other nomadic people, she feels the pull of Taymyr Peninsula’s river port Dudinka, where Gazprom might provide a slightly easier way to make a living. Ivanna’s husband, Gena, has already made his way to the town, but alcohol has stifled his will to work, and perhaps also Ivanna’s love.
A Russian-Norwegian-Estonian-Finnish co-production, Life of Ivanna has already garnered attention at international documentary festivals. It does not romanticize the nomadic lifestyle or lament the loss of traditions. Director Renato Borrayo Serrano, himself a Guatemalan living in Russia, spent the four years of shooting trying to understand Ivanna’s yearning for change that drives so many away from their homesteads. In her fortitude, the stone-faced and chain-smoking Ivanna does not evoke pity, but rather admiration, even though she inadvertently teaches her children a swear word or two.