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Nasha Russia, the Movie

Published: February 5, 2010 (Issue # 1545)




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Ravshan and Dzhumshud arrive at Sheremetyevo Airport packed neatly in a suitcase and are promptly set to work redecorating an oligarchs apartment for the princely wages of 500 rubles ($16) each. Speaking broken Russian, they are forced to fend for themselves in Moscow, armed only with a plastic bag full of power tools.

The two gastarbaitery, or guest workers, from an invented but presumably Central Asian country are the heroes of Nasha Russia: Balls of Fate, the first feature film about Russias most downtrodden class. They originated as characters in TNTs television show Nasha Russia, a sketch comedy similar to Little Britain. In the show, they are incompetently repairing an apartment for It-girl Ksenia Sobchak, although theyve been doing it for a couple of years and theres no sign of her moving in yet.

The full-length film has had pretty good reviews in the broadsheets which resolutely ignored the television show. Thats probably because although it goes for easy laughs there are many jokes about toilets there are some sharp points, too. And even some sympathy for the people who shovel the snow in your yard every morning.

Ravshan and Dzhumshud are working for a moustachioed Russian boss played by Sergei Svetlakov, who also plays numerous other characters in the film who pockets 70,000 euros ($98,000) for their job and insists on confiscating their passports. Despite this, they have misplaced devotion for him. When they believe mistakenly that he is injured in a car crash, they desert the apartment and embark on a road trip across Moscow to find him, taking in a casino (one of the few out-of-date jokes), an office party at a bloated bank (slogan: The crisis missed us!) and the Sklifosovsky hospital, where doctors are bleary-eyed from overdoing the medical spirit.

The gastarbaitery dont really speak Russian which does limit the script opportunities although they talk to each other fluently in a made-up language that is translated. Theyre naive, trusting and easily shocked by male models or massage chairs. A lot of the jokes are slapstick, such as when they gatecrash the banks party and short-circuit the sound system as a pop singer is performing live, a joke that was probably a bit old in Singin in the Rain.

Theres some topical humor, too. Discussing what theyll do with their 500 ruble windfall from repairs, one says hell buy the next village, while the other confides, Ill invest in nanotechnology, the hobby horse of former energy chief Anatoly Chubais and President Dmitry Medvedev.

In my least favorite joke, they encounter a gay pride parade, where the marchers run away at the sight of police, only for a po-faced journalist to say to camera: Doesnt this make us look terrible to the European Union? Misguided they may be, Moscows defiant gay pride organizers are definitely not cowards.

The balls of fate of the films title refer to the golden balls of Genghis Khan, which the oligarch keeps in a box in his apartment. He demonstrates to his dinner guests that all he has to do is rub them and oil prices go up. While inquisitively exploring the apartment, the gastarbaitery find them and pop them into their plastic bag. The film ends with a standoff between the ludicrous oligarch his catch-phrase is I punish cruelly and an army of orange-clad gastarbaitery wielding spades and brooms around the Lenin statue on Kaluzhskaya Ploshchad.

It may not be the kind of orange revolution that keeps Prime Minister Vladimir Putin awake at nights, but the film does have a happy ending.





 

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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