Nyarma and Polar Explorer
Short Film Program
$10 at the door or online
Thursday Jul 8, 2010
8:00Doors Open
8:30Live music by Sunset
9:00Films begin
In case of rain, the screening will be held indoors at the same location.



This Show Presented in Partnership With
New York Magazine
Vitamin Water / smartwater

NY Premiere! Two films from the cold edges of the vast Russian frontier, from the hardscrabble life of nomadic reindeer herders to the dangerous life of arctic bear researchers.

Presented in partnership with: IFC, New York magazine, vitaminwater, Brooklyn Technical High School & Council Member Leticia James


NYARMA (Edgar Bartenev | Russia | 40 min.)
Having screened Edgar Bartenev's short film Yaptic Hasse at Rooftop in 2008, we are thrilled to welcome him back with this fabulous follow-up film. Once again documenting a family of nomadic Nenets who live in the Siberian tundra, Bartenev's grand cinematography immerses us in the gorgeous and harsh scenery, while the intimacy of his familial inspection introduces us to the minute details of their remote life.

The Nenets make their home on high plains that are covered with a rugged dark soil, surrounded by steep hills and rocky peaks that disappear into the clouds, capped by a low-hanging sky. It's an otherworldly landscape that implicitly imparts a deep and intractable isolation. They travel hundreds of miles around the region, amazingly capturing enormous wild reindeer, feeding them by hand, taming them into work, utilizing their milk, meat and fur for themselves and as sellable commodities. They move across the tundra on handmade "nyarma," reindeer-pulled wooden sleds, living off the land as their people have done for centuries, seemingly untouched by modernity.

But even their isolated lives are changing in the modern world. Railroads and highways are shrinking their grazing grounds. Federal regulations limit how many deer they can herd. 24-year-old family head Gosha Nogo struggles to keep fellow men around the community, a necessity given the need for mutual aid in this harsh realm. An outstandingly-crafted documentary, Nyarma quietly and passionately tells a story that mixes the ethereal feelings of a unique way of life with the gritty facts of survival.

Polar Explorer (Nikolay Volkov | Russia | 39 min.)
Tomash Petrovsky is an arctic explorer, fascinated by the hypnotic power of the shifting ice, drawn to the dynamic wasteland that surrounds the eerie power of the magnetic pole. The basis of his life includes taking a helicopter through a blizzard to a hulking, dazzlingly frozen boat; avoiding giant bears swimming through the black water; coping with sunless days and subfreezing temperatures. His elderly mother, for one, can't fathom why he goes: when she was young, Soviet citizens were sent to places like that as punishment. Certainly life on his summery green farm seems much more pleasurable.

Still, in this exquisite, delicately-constructed film, there are obvious delights to the polar life: watching adorable bear cubs frolic in the floes, creating a bond with the other workers (and work dogs), the important scientific research they are conducting, and, of course, the all-consuming beauty of the white landscape, breaking apart spectacularly under the red-painted jaws of their ship or the immense pressure of unthinkable amounts of ice.

When the huskies begin to fight, like canaries in a coalmine, they indicate to the crew that trouble is afoot. But there's little they can do when those breathtaking ice movements scatter their camp, sinking Petrovsky's own home and nearly killing him. But as Russian polar explorers, Petrovsky and his crew demonstrate the unbelievably stoic determination that is the key emotion explored in this daring documentary.

-Mark Elijah Rosenberg

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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

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