The best contemporary Eastern European cinema available to stream online

The best contemporary Eastern European cinema available to stream online

Cinemas might be closed, but film-watching is still very much available. Here’s our round-up of 10 pieces of contemporary cinema that you can stream at home.

21 March 2020
Top image: Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot in Cold War, dir. Paweł Pawlikowski (2018)

And Then We Danced

(Georgia, 2019)

Director: Levan Akin

Hailed as Georgia’s Call Me by Your Name, And Then We Danced is a passionately gripping coming-of-age story set within the high-pressure world of Georgia’s national dance troupe. The film follows Merab, a competitive dancer, and Irakli, a disruptive new arrival to the ensemble, as they navigate a clandestine romance and battle with questions of sexuality, masculinity, and social identity amid Georgian society’s conservative values. The film’s LGBTQ storyline caused controversy and sparked backlash from both the country’s Orthodox church and ultra-nationalist forces, a sad yet powerful witness of the relevance of the LGBTQ representation in present-day Georgia.

Watch on Vimeo or Curzon Home Cinema

Honeyland

(North Macedonia, 2019)

Directors: Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov

Lauded at international festivals from Sundance to the Academy Awards for its originality and cinematography, Honeyland dives into the world of an elderly female beekeeper living in the mountains of North Macedonia. Playfully combining wide shots of the vast landscape and detailed animal-close ups, the film explores the delicate balance and tension between nature and humankind. Honeyland takes us outside the transactional bustle of our globalised urban realities into a universe where daily life unfolds in calm harmony.

Watch on Amazon Prime

Leto

(Russia, 2018)

Director: Kiril Serebrennikov

A spirited requiem for a lost past, Leto is a black and white rendition of the life of Viktor Tsoi, singer-songwriter for popular Soviet band Kino, and a pioneer of Russia’s underground rock scene of the early 1980s. With the hazy atmosphere of a late summer evening, Leto follows the dramatic stories of camaraderie, romance, and rebellion amongst a group of passionate connoisseurs of Western rock. Set in the backdrop of late Soviet Leningrad, the film playfully jumps between reality and dream-like fiction as the protagonists find refuge in forbidden music by Beatles, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Blondie.

Watch on Mubi

In Praise of Nothing

(Serbia, 2017)

Director: Boris Mitić

The protagonist of this entrancing documentary, Nothing, may not have an entirely promising name, but Nothing is tired of being misunderstood. Nothing decides to take us on a journey across a series of documentary images of absence and emptiness filmed all over the world by 62 cinematographers. Narrated by the grave voice of Iggy Pop, Nothing comments on all it sees, contemplating life, death, politics, human relations, and the meaning of life. Perhaps more relevant than ever in the current climate, this documentary is a feel-good poetic journey across the small mysteries of life that somehow blend to form a compelling whole.

Watch on IDFA

Tangerines

(Georgia, 2013)

Director: Zaza Urushadze

In a rural village in Abkhazia in 1992, two Estonian farmers are harvesting their annual crop of tangerines. They are the only two people left in their village, with their former fellow inhabitants fleeing the region amid the outbreak of the Abkhaz-Georgian War. One day, two wounded fighters — one a Chechen mercenary fighting for the Abkhazian separatists, the other a Georgian from the other side of the battlelines — turn up on their land, injured but eager to avenge their fallen comrades. The two farmers nurse them back to health, and in the process come to learn about human frailty and the hope of atonement. A tale of pacifism against the backdrop of war, Tangerines is a brilliant exploration of the complexities of national identity and human nature.

Watch on Amazon Prime

Beanpole

(Russia, 2019)

Director: Kantemir Balagov

Inspired by Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s The Unwomanly Face of War, Beanpole is a complex account of the bond between two women surviving in Leningrad in 1945. In the dreary ruins of this war-torn city, two young women find friendship over the simple fact of having avoided death – if they have, in fact, avoided it at all. With each frame dominated by red and green tones, the film alternates PTSD-infused psychological weight with tender sensuality.

Watch on Mubi

Dovlatov

(Russia, 2018)

Director: Aleksei German

This gripping film depicts six days in the life of Russian writer Sergey Dovlatov in 1970s Leningrad, before he and his friend Joseph Brodsky left the Soviet Union to seek greater creative freedom in New York. Powerfully recreating the dramatic tension of the era, the film follows Dovlatov as he tries to share his work through the dissident underground. It is a poignant portrait of the writer’s life, who was not well-known in his home nation until after his death, and the struggles that forced him into exile.

Watch on Netflix

Cold War

(Poland, 2018)

Director: Pawel Pawilowski

Gorgeous, passionate, and heartbreaking, Cold War is the melancholic portrait of an ardent romance doomed by cruel circumstances. A love letter to an entire generation of Poles, Paweł Pawlikowski’s film, which won him Best Director in Cannes, spans more than a decade. Following the love story of Wiktor and Irena from its dawn until their last dance, Cold War is a journey back and forth across a physically and emotionally impenetrable Iron Curtain. Ultimately, the black-and-white drama is a tribute to those whose emotional lives were squandered under harsh socio-political forces — and ends with a dedication to his parents.

Watch on Amazon Prime

Corpus Christi

(Poland, 2019)

Director: Jan Komasa

This Oscar-nominated film tells the story of a 20-year-old convict who wants to become a priest — an impossible dream due to his criminal record. He is sent to a small village to work as a carpenter but, thanks to an unexpected turn of events, takes over the parish. The young man’s arrival serves as an opportunity to heal the wounds of the community, generated by a tragic series of deaths. As his congregation is divided on how to move on from their painful past, the young priest teaches the ultimate Christian lesson: “to forgive means to love someone despite their guilt.”

Watch on Amazon Prime

Holy Cow

(Azerbaijan, 2015)

Director: Imam Hasanov

Tapdyg leads a simple life with his wife and children in a remote mountain village in Azerbaijan. One day, he comes up with a revolutionary plan to make a better life for himself and his family: buying a European cow that produces more milk than traditional cattle. His wife begs him not to embark on the expensive scheme — after all, the neighbours would gossip. The village elders are also against it: in their minds, any kind of foreign influence would be bad for their isolated community. Their increasing resistance, however, only strengthens Tapdyg’s resolve to follow his dream. A feel-good movie about making our dreams come true, it shows how human beings handle change and react to globalisation when it affects them directly – even in the smallest village of the Caucasus mountains.

Watch on Vimeo

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