It may be 2021, but in the words of Eurovision-winning band Måneskin: rock ‘n’ roll never dies. Neither does Soviet underground rock band Kino, whose songs have become anthems for protest movements as recent as Belarus’ 2020 pro-democracy demonstrations. This is largely due to Kino’s charismatic frontman, Viktor Tsoi: the protagonist of Leto, a spirited requiem for a lost past, and Russia’s pioneering unofficial music scene of the early 1980s. With the hazy atmosphere of a late summer evening, Leto follows the dramatic story of camaraderie, romance, and rebellion amongst a group of passionate connoisseurs of Western rock. Directed by Kirill Serebrennikov, and set against the backdrop of late Soviet Leningrad, the film playfully jumps between reality and dream-like fiction as the protagonists find refuge from political and personal struggles in forbidden music by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and Blondie. Like Tsoi himself, who tragically died in a car accident in 1990 at the age of 28, much of that hope for a democratic Russia has now gone — but Leto resurrects both the legacy of a cultural icon, and a dream of a better society.
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