Russia, 29 min
On a night train, a father tells his son a bedtime story. The day after, they will arrive in Siberia, 500 km away from the closest village, to follow Vissarion, a self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus. With his delicate voice, the boy shares his fears and fading memories. An intimate look at the dark nature of sectarianism.
The City of the Sun is a colony in Siberia inhabited by a sect of Old Testament believers led by Vissarion, a former police officer and self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ. More than 4,000 faithful live there, isolated from society, following the commands of their Guru. During meticulously staged ceremonies, Vissarion preaches the end of the world for the non-believers in front of his spellbound followers. In a hushed atmosphere, we follow Tisha, a boy whose father brings him to The City of the Sun. Night after night Tisha’s memories of his mother and brother are replaced by the dogmas of the Old Testament. Maria Semerova creates a sophisticated game of light and shadow. With but few dramatic elements and a layered soundscape, she translates on the screen an intangible process of indoctrination and isolation in which children and adults alike are slowly hypnotized. Moving through the village, the camera finds the little cracks that reveal the mechanisms of seduction and coercion, thus revealing the disturbing nature of sectarianism.
Rebecca de Pas