'Queer' Asia: Decolonisation & Russia

Free event but tickets required: please register here

Sunday 8 March 2020
18:30 – 20:30

BH Lecture Theatre 2 (S) 4.04
Central Block, Bush House,
Strand Campus, Kings College London
30 Aldwych
London WC2B 4BG
AccessAble link to the room available here

International Woman’s Day – 8th March – has long been wielded as a propaganda tool by the Russian state.

Neither a protest nor a celebration of queer femininities, 8th March in Russia eulogises, enforces, and naturalises only one type of ‘womanhood’: gender- normative, cis-het and ethnically-Russian. To subvert this exclusionary womanhood, we are screening films that uncover the issues faced by national-minority and indigenous women in that country.

Screening these films in London – the capital of the empire in most queer postcolonial discourses – also questions the mainstream positioning of Anglo-America and, to a lesser degree, France as the colonial metropole. Postcolonial and intersectional discourses oscillating in and around these Western contexts have already transcended academic silos to become increasingly mainstream. But, like any other discourse, Western decolonial thinking contains absences, lacunae, and erasures. One such erasure is exemplified by the lack of meaningful discourse around Russian colonisation of indigenous peoples and national minorities. By centring on the grim realities of peoples and places colonised by Russia today – places that either do not exist in so-called Western discourse or are not recognized as colonial Asian sites – our films queer conceptions of ‘Asia’, ‘Asianness’ and ‘coloniality’ common in the West.

We will be screening the following two films:

Mavzhuda (2019), Director: Nimasu Namsaren

“Mavzhuda” tells tells the story of a 12-year-old girl from Uzbekistan who has immigrated to Saint Petersburg with her mother and grandmother. Struggling to fit in in her new cultural environment and to express herself in a new language, Mavzhuda involuntarily starts to reject her own heritage, which causes a conflict with her loving grandmother.

This short is Nimasu Namsaren’s directorial debut and was inspired by the experience of tutoring the children of migrants at the Jewish Community Centre of Saint Petersburg. Many of them face the pressure of learning Russian very quickly in order to keep up with the curriculum at school, while their desire to adapt creates an internal dilemma that they can’t always express. Placed in between different cultures at home and at school they try to find balance and to explore their own unique identity.

Exciting Life (2018), Director: Anna Yanovskaya

This comedy is based on real events that happened to the Moscow actor Aleksey Yudnikov. A failed Moscow actor travels to the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for a film job he was promised. Through him, the viewer becomes immersed in the world of the Olonho culture, the Republic of Sakha and its contemporary national cinema. All of three appear mysterious to Yudnikov,
who does not know the rules of the game. Expecting an easy job, Yudnikov must embark on a long voyage, geographical and metaphoric, meeting old wise men, shamans and even magical deer on his way.

Renowned Russian actor, Anna Yanovskaya, makes her debut with this cinematic exploration of Sakha, its majestic nature, and the problematics of developing and sustaining national-minority cinema in Russia today. Sakha is the most prolific if not the only producer of feature films in the national language. Production figures are impressive. The number of Sakha films produced rivals the overall production of films in other parts of Russia. But, we do not know anything about Sakha’s national cinema. Lacking large budgets and institutional support enjoyed by Russian productions, Sakha cinema enjoys unrivalled popularity in the Republic and has received some recognition at film festivals in South Korea and Japan.