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Review: 107 Mothers – Cenzorka (2021)

107 Mothers – Cenzorka (2021)

Directed by: Péter Kerekes | 93 minutes | drama | Actors: Maryna Klimova, Iryna Kiryazeva, Lyubov Vasylyna, Vyacheslav Vygovskyl, Oleksandr Mykhailov, Irina Tokarchuk, Raisa Roman, Tetyana Klishch, Olga Dudinova, Tetyana Ivanova, Tetyana Neterenko, Tetyana Paraskeva, Tatiana Shmulevich

In the docudrama ‘107 Mothers’, Ukrainian Lesya (Klimova) is sentenced to seven years in prison for murdering her husband. She gives birth to her son Kolya (Vygovskyl) and is worried: when the child is three, she has to go to an orphanage unless Lesya can arrange another good home for him.

For his feature film portrait of a young woman in a women’s prison, the Slovak director Péter Kerekes spent a long time investigating the Odessa prison. He was impressed by how the imprisoned women have to cope – with each other, and with their sometimes ruined lives. You would say that you are making a documentary about it, that you have chosen a (Russian spoken) drama production. That knowledge alone is astonishing. ‘107 Mothers’ hardly deviates from a documentary.

What is the added value of an actor’s drama? For credibility it’s a drawback, nothing indicates a dramatized production – maybe the scripted acting. You don’t have to see this movie for the acting. Kerekes informed the NRC that ‘107 Mothers’ is a hybrid film. He would also rather have made a documentary, walked around the Odessa prison extensively as a ‘fly on the wall’, but does not reveal why the film has been dramatized. That makes it difficult to assess. Perhaps the prison management did not cooperate.

The chief guard of the prison plays a major role in the film. She does the intake interviews and lets the detained mothers know that she has power over the future of the children. Perhaps this role came a little too close to reality. The key word in the film is resignation. Lesya’s resignation is well portrayed by Klimova; Vygovskyl also does well as the boy Kolya; Kerekes adds a light touch through the soundtrack. What can you say? ‘107 Mothers’ looks poignantly authentic.