Variety has been given exclusive access to the first footage to be released from Slovak director Peter Kerekes’ “107 Mothers,” which world premieres in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival. Films Boutique is handling world sales on the film.
“107 Mothers” features mostly real-life female prisoners and prison guards in an Odessa women’s jail acting out their true stories. Two characters are focused on in particular, both played by actors: Lesya, a prisoner with a young boy forced to make a difficult decision, and Irina, a guard, whose life often resembles that of her prisoners. Iryna is “a guardian, confidant, and friend, but also a public official charged with administering punishment,” the director comments.
Lesya has committed a crime of passion, which lands her with a seven-year jail term. She has just given birth to her first child, and now she is entering a world populated only by women: inmates, nurses and wardens, women of all ages, wives and widows, daughters, sisters, pregnant women, and women with children. If not for the color of the uniform, it would sometimes be hard to tell who is who.
Discussing the film, Kerekes says he visited a real prison for several years, trying to get close to the inmates, and “film them not as passive objects, but rather as participating subjects.” The mothers among them are only allowed a few hours with their children each day. Kerekes says he wanted “to deliver an authentic collective testimony of the convicted mothers, not only through their conversations with Iryna, but also through the silent scenes – the loneliness they feel when their children are taken away, and they despairingly finish their birthday cake; the flashes of happiness when the women briefly forget they’re in prison. Visually, these scenes are treated almost like a photograph – a memory of a moment independent of space and time.”
The main cast are Maryna Klimova as Lesya, Iryna Kiryazeva as Iryna, and Lyubov Vasylyna as Nadia. The screenplay is by Ivan Ostrochovský and Kerekes. The producer is Ostrochovský for Slovakia’s Punkchart Films. The co-producers are Radio and Television of Slovakia (Slovakia), Endorfilm (Czech Republic), Arthouse Traffic (Ukraine), Peter Kerekes (Slovakia), and Hypermarket Film (Czech Republic).
The film received financial support from the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, Eurimages, the Czech Film Fund and the Ministry of Culture in Ukraine.
In 2003, Kerekes directed his debut feature documentary, “66 Seasons,” which became a festival favorite and won several awards, including the Best Film Award at DocAviv. His next feature documentary, 2009’s “Cooking History,” received the Prix Arte nomination for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards, among other plaudits. Kerekes’s 2013 feature documentary, “Velvet Terrorists,” co-directed by Pavol Pekarčík and Ivan Ostrochovský, won the Fedeora Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and had its international premiere in the Forum section of the Berlinale, winning the Tagesspiegel Readers’ Award.