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Wednesday

Victor Kossakovsky's "Wednesday" is an ambitious documentary in which he tracks down every citizen of St. Petersburg who was born the same day he was. Pic provides an illuminating insight into the lives of "ordinary" 35-year-old Russians. Jane Balfour Films should have no trouble slotting this into quality TV networks everywhere. Kossakovsky was born in what was then Leningrad on Wednesday, July 19, 1961, at the height of the Cold War. In present-day St. Petersburg (the alteration to the city's name alone is a reminder of the momentous changes that have taken place), the filmmaker set about obsessively tracking down everyone born in the city that day --- 51 females, 50 males. Of these 101 people, several have died (two of them in the war in Afghanistan), several more have emigrated, and others have moved to other cities in Russia. But, during 1995, the tenacious Kossakovsky managed to film all the remaining residents --- 70 of them.

The material is assembled in no special order. Kossakovsky simply films people on the streets, at work or at home. Some talk freely to him, while others are shy and clam up. One woman throws helmer and his film crew out of her apartment. There’s a police officer and a convict, a wealthy-looking businessman (planning to renovate an old boat into a tourist vessel) and an impoverished drunk. There’s a teacher, a builder, a driver, a magistrate, a masseuse, a victim of police brutality. There’s a new mother, thrilled with her baby boy. Religious and political leanings run the gamut. Most of the interviewees seem surprisingly contented: “Life is good” is a recurring comment.

The one character to whom Kossakovsky keeps returning is a grossly overweight pregnant woman who shares a tiny apartment with her artist husband and a large dog. She awaits the birth of her first child anxiously because she’s clearly not in good health (she had a drug problem that seems to have been cured) and because hospital beds are not always available. The film ends as she triumphantly gives birth to a sickly, but living, baby girl.

“Wednesday” is best compared to documentaries like Michael Apted’s “7 Up” series, which explores the lives of ordinary people.

Technical credits are fine given the on-the-run nature of the filmmaking.

Wednesday

Russian - German - British - Finnish

Production: A Roskomkino (Moscow)/Docstudios (St. Petersburg)/Viola Stephan Filmproduktion (Berlin)/ZDF-Arte (Mainz)/BBC (London)/Ylesradio (Helsinki) co-production. (International sales: Jane Balfour Films, London.) Produced by Viola Stephan. Co-producers, Anne Even, Nicholas Fraser, Reijo Nikkilda. Directed, written, edited by Victor Kossakovsky.

Crew: Camera, Kossakovsky; music, Alexander Popov; sound, Leonid Lerner; associate producer, Jane Balfour. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 19, 1997. Running time: 93 MIN.

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