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Gromozeka (2011) Film Review

Gromozeka is, in the words of my cohort, “very Russian.”
Gromozeka is, in the words of my other cohort, “odd.”

This odd, very Russian film is not for everyone. It’s probably not even for 75% of film-going patrons. There’s a plotline — kind of — but it’s comprised of a series of mostly disconnected vignettes. Some vignettes are poignant (a grown man being cradled by a frustrated prostitute), some endearing (a father and son sharing identical mannerisms when eating), some depressing (a man cramming barbituates into a bottle of bourbon). Quite a few are brief and almost pointless (a man ramming the back of his head once onto an elevator door, for instance).

But Gromozeka is, in my words, “a grower.”

Its atypical humor, which lies somewhere between awkward and black, is a rarity. Not quite laugh-out-loud funny (except to a select maniacal few), Gromozeka‘s brand of chuckle-under-your-breath, scoff-at-the-ridiculousness-of-it-all funny strikes people in vastly different ways. When one watches the film with a captive audience, its peculiarities quickly become apparent; few jokes in Gromozeka receive collective riotous laughter, but all jokes receive acknowledgement from at least a few individuals, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Much like a balding uncle who scratches himself at the dinner table or a childhood teddy bear that has begun to rot, Gromozeka is equally adorable and painful. Its storyline follows the lives of three middle-aged Russian men, all of whom are failing at life in some regard, either through work mishaps, health problems, family issues, or a combination of those factors. All three have difficulties dealing with the women in their lives; all three are humongous cowards who take the path of least resistance, to detrimental ends.

The tales would be unbearably depressing if not for director and screenwriter Vladimir Kott’s impressive grasp on life, careful attention to detail, slow pacing, and charming character development. As the film continues, one begins to warm up to all of its light-hearted quirks. Slight, weird jabs of humor keep one from pitying the main characters despite their difficult situations. With a keen eye and a flair for unconventional humor, Kott subtly reveals the beautiful humor sometimes found in man’s most downtrodden times.

Seen at Seattle International Film Festival 2011

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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