Originally from Russia, the young New York-based director Nadia Bedzhanova has made videos all over the world, perfectly weaving stories from New York, Paris, or her home town of Moscow. Having studied Filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts, with a degree in Journalism from the Moscow State University to boot, Bedzhanova is not only a director but often also shoots the films herself. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why her shorts, and teasers for the various brands she collaborates with, have such a vivid visual aesthetic. Her new short, Headlong, which first premiered at Brooklyn Short Film Festival last summer, is a coming-of-age drama set in a swimming-pool changing room.
A casual meeting between two schoolfriends leads to a sudden rush of feelings, which seem to catch even the film’s protagonists by surprise. The narrative not only touches on the question of sexual orientation but is also a reflection on the relation between youth and uncertainty in all its manifestations. “Youth is a period of self-discovery in one’s life,” says Bedzhanova. It is around this age that we develop our own principles and opinions, and sometimes think that we know everything. You gain independence, self-determination, and forge a worldview.” This self-discovery is a recurring motif throughout Bedzhanova’s films.
Headlong takes place in Moscow, where falling for someone of the same sex is taboo in Russia’s conservative society. But Bedzhanova is not a provocateur. She, very simply, dispenses with cultural boundaries, and tells a universal story: “Feelings and moments such as this happen absolutely everywhere. Though in New York, it’s definitely easier in that respect. Nobody will judge or glare at you disapprovingly. Of course it’s irritating when people disrespect freedom of expression, but it could happen to anyone. In today’s Russia this topic is more relevant than ever. The Soviet statues and sayings that you still encounter all the time in everyday life are in conflict with youth, with its absence of rules,” declares the director.
There seems no limit, either, to Bedzhanova’s sense of style. In her words, she films as she feels, and doesn’t differentiate between genres and formats, with the understanding that the main audience for her films will be on the internet. Still, she finds feature films hardest to make: “One of the main components here is dialogue — its delivery and meaning. Bringing a text to life is much harder than it sounds.” Yet, Bedzhanova does this effortlessly, dissolving dialogue with music without interrupting the pace.
Text: Anton Sazonov