• Sergey Solonskiy

Part 3. Maya, Miri-Ann and Ondrej


The last day of my work program at the film festival began at the library of the Tomsk State University.

As a rule, if you listen carefully to another person, keeping in mind that he or she knows something that you still do not know, you can often learn very interesting things. It was exactly the case this time. With me assisting her as the interpreter, Maya Lahav told the audience about education in Denmark, scholarships for students (which most of our university teachers would be jealous of), about the way the academic system is designed, providing quite a lot of freedom, matching the interests of the future specialist and other things.

What struck me most about her story was that, when she talked about her country, Maya allowed attentive listeners to get a glimpse of the Danish mentality. You have probably heard about the Scandinavian model - a kind of “socialism that works”, when citizens pay huge taxes, but it seems that everyone lives quite well (and rather prosperously by Russian standards). If you are an adult, a rational thinking and well-educated person, then you know that socialism cannot “work” simply because it contradicts the human nature and behavior, as well as economic laws that always prevail over propaganda (there are plenty of examples: Venezuela, North Korea, etc.). If you are interested in this topic, I recommend reading the book “Why nations fail” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.

Thus, the question arises: so "what is wrong" with these Scandinavians, that it works for them? I have long been interested in this matter. And here is what I personally learned after listening to Maya.

Since childhood, Danes are raised in such a way that they feel a part of the community one might call “people of our country”. They distinctly feel that they are part of a small country that is trying to develop partnerships with its neighbors. The main thing, however, is that the Danish society is sort of a big family, and the state budget is the budget of this family. In a family, money does not appear out of thin air, right? I am sure that a Danish person does not consider the “budget” money to grow on trees, and therefore endless. This is an important difference between them and many of our fellow compatriots. Danes know that it is necessary to work responsibly and to the best of one’s abilities, and pay large taxes so that the state (e.g. senior members of the “family” in my example) could use this money and build high-quality roads, well-thought-out residential areas with convenient infrastructure, pay pensions, which can support you quite well even after retirement.

All of this is possible only as long as citizens associate themselves with this community. As long as a critical mass of people are ready to follow the “accepted” lifestyle, “chip in” on good healthcare, and public health officials are not thinking of buying CT scanners at an inflated price to pocket the balance, the Danish society “works.”

Some of you might have already come up with a question: “But what about those who are not very happy with the ‘accepted’ lifestyle?” What if a person does not want to live just like millions of others? Now this is also very interesting. In fact, this is the reverse side of such a seemingly advanced and wonderful system. There was another Dane with us that day - actress Miri-Ann Beuschel.

We moved to the Governor's Innovative Humanitarian and Technical College (what a name!), where Miri-Ann, with me as her interpreter side-kick, held a master class in acting, talked to novice actors and students of the acting department, and talked a little about her view on the world.

Miri-Ann won my respect as she spoke how responsibly she prepares for her roles, how she perceives the world around her and human relations. I immediately got the impression that she was exactly one of those who stand out, break the mould, who probably would not feel very comfortable being just another one of all those people living ordinary (albeit rather well-off) lives.

In fact, the society in the Scandinavian countries is designed in such a way that if you are a little below the average level, then the state will help you in every possible way to reach this level. But if you stand out in the other direction, then it will make efforts to gently “get you back in the line”, be it business or creativity. Creative individuals in such conditions do not get to experience psychological comfort. This is exactly what I heard in Miri-Ann’s speech.

The final point of my program at the film festival was to accompany the director of “Menandros & Thais” Ondrej Cikan. First, we visited an art school where we talked both with venerable artists and students. Ondrej spoke about how he managed to make such an experimental film virtually without a budget. Here is how! With a group of like-minded people, they had shot some of the material with their own money, and then showed the work to the local cinema fund, which eventually funded everything.

After the art school, we moved to the main venue of the film festival, where Ondrej presented his film to the full auditorium. The film was really very experimental, almost theatrical and metaphoric virtually from the first to the last frame. The one scene that I personally remembered and liked a lot was when the main characters were crossing the smoldering "desert", crawling along the asphalted ground. Told you, the film was unusual. Definitely arthouse.

After the film, the audience would not not release Ondrej (and me, by proxy) for a long time, asked many questions and were genuinely interested in the filming process. The festival drew in a clever and thinking audience.

In general, the festival was a success, attracted even more people than the organizers had expected, and laid the foundation for a tradition that I hope will last for many more years. Getting a little ahead, I will say that in 2018, the second film festival was held on an even greater scale and was a huge success with Tomsk citizens. As for me, I am proud that I was involved in this, contributed to the cause, and met such interesting people.

Many thanks to all the organizers, the Tomsk Region Administration and colleagues, with whom I was lucky to work during those days.

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© 2015-2019 by Sergey Solonskiy.