Sometimes the internet is so saturated that we don’t venture outside of our own bubble. We are given a stereotypical picture of what life is like elsewhere and we don’t try to seek out stories that we can relate to. Stop-Zemlia is a film that feels partly like a documentary and part teen drama that isn’t quite coming of age and isn’t the teen drama you imagine. There are moments of peace and tranquillity followed by reckless behaviour and words of wisdom shared between friends. Its feels like a scene from a film and from your own life.
Introverted Masha is in her final year of school and deciding on what to do next. Along with her best friends, Yana and Senia, she sees things from the outside and feels at home away from any attention. But when she falls in love, she has step outside of her comfort zone and take a chance before school ends.
Switching from the interview questions, back to the story at times feels disruptive. Cutting the natural flow in a scene, particularly between the three best friends, then returning to some very personal questions started to make it feel like a documentary rather than a fictional film and the playful side the story was being chipped at. However, there were times, the quick-fire questions, worked well to illustrate what the students were thinking, giving just that little bit more of an insight to how they feel. Some of the more beautiful and poignant points in the film were wordless, just expressions. More can be determined from these looks, glances than the question and answer set up.
Although there is a large cast of teenagers, all of whom are questioned in the documentary style segments, the main focus is on Masha and her best friends Yana and Senia. They have a close-knit bond that is heart-warming to watch and as they discuss life, loves and trivial things. The special moments shared are compared to their time apart which is equally as precious. We get an insight into these characters through actions not words which what makes this story such an easy delight.
If there were more film depicting the quiet teenage experience, in the cusp of big changes, they should look like this. Beautifully shot and aesthetically pleasing in terms of structure. Stop Zemlia shows that not everything associated with teenagers or youth adults has to be overly dramatic and sensational, we just need more films like this.
Stop-Zemlia had its UK Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021