Bolshe Vita | Chicago Reader

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Set in Budapest during the collapse of the communist regime, this 1995 dramatic debut by Hungarian documentarian Ibolya Fekete follows a trio of young Russian immigrants as they bask in their newfound freedom but then get bogged down in the toils of daily survival. With the new border openings, the Hungarian capital became a hub for drifters and adventurers from other parts of Europe and the U.S.; as depicted here, it also became a stalking ground for grifters and gangsters. Fekete?s marvelously expressive actors (who speak, among them, at least three different languages) and her jittery, cinema verite style contribute to the existential milieu of the downtrodden expatriates. She?s humane yet unflinchingly realistic about the community?s false expectations: only one of the three men manages to find his way to the West, and at the end of the film Fekete intercuts news footage of fighting in Chechnya and Bosnia with Russian mafiosi brutally claiming their territory in Budapest.

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