Mila Fakhurdinova's My Friend's Friend, the second in our monthly series of short films by emerging directors from the new east, draws its beguiling power from its enigmatic storyline and bleakly atmospheric setting.

Mila Fakhurdinova, who turned 29 this year, worked for several years as a paediatrician before she found her true calling in film directing. The catalyst for her decision was Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, which inspired her to pursue her own remakes, much like the characters in Gondry’s comedy. After that, Fakhurdinova, who is Russian but based in Kazakhstan, went on to complete several short courses in film, but it was shooting itself that taught her most about her craft. At present, she has three shorts behind her — Lalagy, Milestone and My Friend’s Friend.

My Friend’s Friend is her most mature work to date. The short, which was filmed in Kapchagay, 80 km away from the Kazakh city of Almaty, unravels the friendship between two fishermen who are camping on the ice of a seemingly boundless reservoir. “I was always interested in seeing how reservoirs freeze over,” says Fakhurdinova. “I imagined giant, blue pieces of drift ice, the size of an iceberg, floating on the surface of the water. But what I found instead was a white desert with strong winds and cosmic, meditative views. At the end of a gruelling excursion across this reservoir with friends, when they had started walking back and disappeared out of view, I genuinely wondered whether I had come there alone. It was in that moment that I decided to base the story around this place.”

The line between what’s real in the film and what isn’t — one of Fakhurdinova’s favourite themes — is considerably blurred. “For me, the real and unreal are not so black and white. I often mistake my dreams with memories, the books I’ve read with the films I’ve seen. I think there is huge void inside each person, where nothing is clear — a densely populated world, a private universe. So, I wanted the protagonists of the film to be surrounded by an empty expanse, a cosmos. The creation myth of the primordial world egg felt like the right option here, so we broke the yolk — the tent — on the white nothingness.”

Text: Anton Sazonov

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