In recent years a generation of Russian filmmakers, artists and musicians has been on a mission to find new contemporary aesthetics to artistically reflect day-to-day existence in the post-Soviet environment. Badlands, the new short film by Alexander Epikhov, is a very successful example of working with the unremarkable urban space of Moscow to capture its relation to history and humanity. And definitely not in the way you would expect.

Badlands emerged from a yearning to find something we felt was truthful to our surroundings — at least on a metaphorical level,” Epikhov says. “It’s a story of bridging the past, which seems largely layered with dreams and fantasies, long twisted and destroyed, to present political realities: man’s current state; dead in some insignificant “badlands”, with nothing but his past. Perhaps it’s a story of longing, inherently nostalgic and tragic as that which the character wishes for is, in-of-itself, unattainable.”

The film was produced by film collective ELLI, which Epikhov belongs to, and made in collaboration with musician Karina Kazaryan, responsible for the haunting dark soundtrack, and independent modelling agency Lumpen for the unusual faces representing Russian youth today. Together, these elements launch the viewer on a surreal journey from a mysterious car park into the depths of one’s consciousness, the void between past and present.

“When choosing textures, faces and context, we were confronted with a question of reality which seemed lucid and difficult to fix in that oftentimes it appears that, here, truth is consistently veiled,” Epikhov adds.

“We sought locations with a strong inherent dialecticism between the past and the present. The car park we used for the first scene, Hotel Cosmos, and the overpass are places that once symbolised utopian fantasies which have, over time, become dilapidated or distorted in meaning: places that have become broken dreams, transformed into something altogether contradictory or stand for a new Russia all together. This was one of the reasons why we felt working with the model agency Lumpen was so important. Their models have a sense of authenticity and carry in themselves a story that contrasts with the archetypal portrayal of these locations.”

Text: Anastasiia Fedorova
Director: Alexander Epikhov