Directed by Andrew Ogorodnikov
Perhaps you’ve never heard of the Republic of Mari El. Located in the centre of European Russia in the Volga River basin, it is home to the majority of the Mari, a Finno-Ugric people sometimes referred to as ‘the last pagan population of the West’. Back in the early 20th century, Timofei Evseyev (Evseev), a local historian, got in trouble with the Soviet leaders for his work in documenting this unique culture. Today, his name adorns the National Museum of the Mari El Republic in recognition of his contribution to the preservation of this traditional culture. Director Andrew Ogorodnikov introduces us to Evseyev and the Finno-Ugric culture he studied in a documentary that stands out for its unusual cinematic qualities are not often seen in documentary, its presentation of Finno-Ugric cultural artefacts, and its revelation of ethnography as a political act.
Born in the city of Kozmodemyansk in the Republic of Mari El in 1989, Andrew Ogorodnikov went on to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. ‘Closer’ (2017), his directorial debut, won various awards at film festivals in Russia and abroad. In 2020, he was invited by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Mari El to direct a series of films on Mari heritage for the centenary of the Republic. In 2022, he won the competition ‘Russia - a look into the future’ organized by the Fund for Support of Regional Cinema of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia, which allowed him to complete his film ‘Evseyev: Recognition at the Cost of Life’, dedicated to the famous local historian whose ethnographic collections constitute the ‘golden fund’ for the entire Finno-Ugric world.