On a cold winter night in an abandoned basement in Perm, a group of teenagers huddled together near the hot water pipes to keep warm. Their fingers were numb and scabbed with frostbites, and their dainty frames trembled in the sub-zero temperature in this part of the world.
They are the last surviving generation of children born in the years when the Soviet Union collapsed. Beyond these walls, the maturing democracy has moved on and forgotten about them. Lacking the basic necessities such as food, shelter, and care, and needing to battle the harsh realities of the Siberian winter, they learned to rely on one another and find means to survive, and to forget.
Next to them, two smartly groomed men were trying to understand the lifestyle that these children lead, and why they called the home they live in Skazka, Russian for ‘Fairytale’. They have a romanticised view on the way they live, in which they have created a life where there were no rules, no authorities and where friendship is everything.
Whilst one spoke, the eyes of the others bore into the expensive items worn on the men who interviewed them. Repetitive thoughts crossed their minds, “No, I can’t steal from them. They are my friends“.
And why wouldn’t they think so? While the rest of us take for granted what we have and the food that we can afford, these kids have eaten stale pizzas that they found from inside a bin. They have begged, stolen and prostituted themselves to maintain the small luxury in their ill-fated lives – drugs. It was a luxury that helped them escape their troubled existences to a place where living became enjoyable. In time, this luxury transformed into serious drug addictions which would prove fatal to some members of the group.
Center to this ‘fairytale’ existence is a starry-eyed boy with a pure heart called Denis. Since he is the only invalid in the group, crippled by frostbite in his fingers and toes, he is the breadwinner of the group. His begging pays for the alcohol, drug, and food supply of the entire unit. As Denis speaks you can see that so much good exists within this person, whose only aspiration is to lead a normal life, to have a girlfriend and fall in love.
But will he get to his dreams before the ‘fairytale’ lifestyle gets to him first?
A Russian Fairytale is an observational documentary by Jake Mobbs and Nicolas Doldinger. Filmed over the course of a year, they followed a group of teenagers living together on the streets of Perm – a city once closed to the West during the Soviet era. Shot entirely in HD on 35mm Prime lenses, A Russian Fairytale is a visual roller coaster ride telling the character’s stories the way fairytales are told: graphic and provoking yet truly beautiful.