We plan to film on the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Siberia, home to the world’s greatest concentration of active volcanoes. We met Aleksandr and Maxim while making the short documentary, “Songs of the Tundra’, which went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at the Provincetown International Film Festival and premiere internationally at IDFA 2009. Now with the support of the Fulbright, and the LEF foundation we plan to spend a year in Kamchatka documenting the Eveny and their evolving relationships to these volcanos in some of the most remote places in the world. Your support will pay for the camera, sound, and other production equipment necessary to make the film.
Our story begins with Aleksandr Adukanov and his son Maxim. The Adukanovs are Eveny people, descended of Mongolians and indigenous to the Kamchatka peninsula in far eastern Siberia for centuries. Kamchatka is so remote and isolated, but rich in natural resources that the Soviet government provided subsidies for the Eveny to live in their traditional ways in the area.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the subsidies disappeared, their lives and livelihoods were suddenly thrown into question. The Eveny had kept large herds of reindeer at the base of the volcano range that they live beneath, but when the money dried up, this ancestral pastoral practice went with it. It was on the eve of this collapse that Maxim was born, and in the turmoil that followed that he came of age.
As the capitalist fever spread east — Aleksandr, out of necessity, and the fear for the remote Eveny villages up north, grew a business around sustaining his culture through shipping and tourism. He purchased aging tanks on the cheap from the military to move people and supplies over the taiga where once a network of expensive Soviet helicopters flew. For tourism, he would take interested parties sport fishing, or to the taiga to hunt bears that they couldn’t track elsewhere, and into the extraordinary landscape that he knew intimately well. Strikingly perched atop a tank Aleksandr could go into the land he had ridden horses, and even reindeer through, but where there were no formal roads. Eventually he accrued enough money to purchase 500 reindeer and reinstated the pastime he and his ancestors had grown up with — dreaming that one day it could become an attraction to see atop a tank, and a sustainable livelihood.
Maxim, however, is now attending the local state University with an opposing perspective of his cultural background and personal context. He is studying geology — volcanoes specifically. As a volcanologist he will gain an intimate and scientific access to the volcanic environment of Kamchatka that is laden with cultural, and spiritual meaning already. Volcanology will likely take Maxim to the corners of the earth, to other volcanoes and Universities far from home, though the interest and the access to this field will always stem from an Eveny childhood in the shadow of Koryaksky, one of the UN’s fourteen “decade volcanoes” known for their activity and proximity to large groups of people.
As father and son grapple with the past — a cultural legacy and the questions and threats of the present and future — they come into conflict over how to engage with an environment that neither produced, nor sustains them, but to which they are inextricably linked.
The film explores the universal complexity of family ties, the role of indigenous cultures in large nation states, the relation of science and cultural tradition, and the long, complicated aftershocks of the end of the Soviet Union.
In light of the Icelandic eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, the scientific research on Koryaksky has a particular relevance to the world today. As humanity is increasingly familiar with stubborn natural disasters — oil spills currently confound scientists in the gulf — the lessons inherent in volcanoes are instructive and urgent. The scientific and spiritual culture surrounding the Koryaksky volcano provides a template of reverential curiosity that applies to our larger natural context. If this film is not made now, we may not have a second opportunity to capture Koryaksky’s rich stories. The geologists will have moved on to other mysteries; industrial development will have obscured the cultural treasures of the Eveny.
Elizabeth's portfolio, 'Film Stills: Real and Imagined', can be viewed at: www.elizabethblaurose.com
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