Russian director Nikita Mikhailkov, known for pix like “Urga”/”Close to Eden” and “Dark Eyes,” has come up with an utterly fascinating and charming combination of home movie, valentine to his daughter and personal commentary on events taking place in his country in recent years in “Anna 6-18.” Pic deserves specialized distribution and fest exposure and should be of considerable public appeal.
The project began illegally in the old Soviet Union, in 1980. Mikhailkov, scion of a well-respected family of Russian artists (his half-brother is director Andrei Konchalovsky) decided to make a home movie of his daughter, Anna , then 6 years old. Home movies were illegal in the USSR, so the director worked in secret with a few friends.
Every year he’d ask his daughter questions: What do you want most? What do you fear? What do you hate? At first, she answers like any child anywhere in the world (she wants a crocodile as a pet, she hates beet root soup).
As the years go by, she becomes guarded, and answers like a true Soviet citizen (she wants world peace, hates war). Then, with perestroika, glasnost and democracy, and also her development as a teenager, she blossoms before our eyes.
If this were all, it would be of limited interest, a kind of Russian “35 Up” concentrating on one child only. But Mikhailkov uses the personal material as a basis for responding to the changes inhis country, including plentiful newsreel material to chart the end of the Brezhnev era and the amazing changes that took place.
The director’s warmth and sense of humor are evident throughout in his choice of material, as, for instance, in a funny scene at an official ceremony in which a befuddled old man has great difficulty pinning a medal on the already medal-laden chest of the equally befuddled Brezhnev.
It adds up to a collage film of considerable interest and charm, a mixture of recent histories, some personal, some political. It’s patched together with Mikhailkov’s own perceptive commentary and is very good technically.
At the world preem screening, Mikhailkov made a video of his daughter watching herself on screen, noting that this was the first time she’d seen any of the material herself.