Piter

The Netherlands, Filimon Film, 2004; 79 min, Color
In Russian with English subtitles
Directors: Jessica Gorter and Frank Gorter
Screenplay and camera: Jessica Gorter
Sound and music: Frank Gorter

This documentary film follows intertwining stories of seven inhabitants of the present-day St. Petersburg. But, as the title suggests, the protagonist of the film is the city itself. Much like Dziga Vertov’s 1929 avant-garde masterpiece, Man with a Movie Camera, Gorters’ film is built around the daily cycle: from early morning until late at night. In a stark contrast to Vertov’s machine-driven futuristic city, Piter lives through its past and its people. More precisely, Soviet history and its survivors—both the people and the city—do not exist separately. History haunts the film every step of the way. For each person interviewed the city has its own unique identity. For some it is “Piter,” the city of the revolution, of the proletariat, and of the lumpen proletariat. For others it is “Leningrad,” the survivor of the Nazi siege, the city of Lenin and Stalin. For others it is “St. Petersburg,” a free post-communist “land of opportunities.”

The contrast, created by the close-ups of tired faces and drab apartments, on the one hand, and the long shots of the “imperial” St. Petersburg and the new capitalist metropolis, on the other, is at times shocking. Yet this contrast is not enforced on the viewer. People—from the successful director of a chain of flower shops to the unemployed man who lives in a dump—talk about their drastically transformed lives calmly, without affectation. They simply go about their daily routine and the camera follows them around silently and humbly. This understated style and filmmakers’ respect for the city’s un-scripted, unspoken trauma make Piter a moving experience.

Jessica and Frank Gorter

Jessica and Frank Gorter photo

Jessica Gorter (b. 1969) graduated from the NFTVA (Dutch Film and Television Academy) in Amsterdam (1994). Since then she has worked as an independent filmmaker who made the post-soviet Russia her major subject. She also directed programs for Dutch television and worked as an editor for various documentaries and fiction films. Together with her brother Frank Gorter she founded the production company Filimon Film.

2004 Piter
2002 No Goods Today
1998 Ferryman across the Volga
1994 Holy Road
1993 Gold and Blue
1992 In Between

Frank Gorter (b. 1972) graduated from the Department of Art, Media &Technology at the Utrecht School of Arts (2002), where he studied composition and music technology. He composed and produced music for films and commercials and worked as an editor for the Rotterdam television. Piter, the second film they directed and produced in collaboration, premiered in 2004 at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam.

2004 Piter
1998 Ferryman across the Volga
2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company

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