Festival Review: Pioneer Heroes (2015)

Pioneer Heroes

The portrait of a lost generation, Natalya Kudryashova’s Pioneer Heroes unpicks the disappointment of not living up to those childhood Octoberist dreams.

We Can Be Heroes

by Mark Wilshin

Pioneer Heroes

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

A Russian companion piece to Andreas Dresen’s As We Were Dreaming, Natalya Kudryashova’s debut feature Pioneer Heroes follows the evolution of three thirty-somethings, Olga, Katya and Sergeyev as they attempt to reconcile their childhood dreams of accomplishing an act of heroism with their post-Glasnost lives as writers, actors and art vendors. For Olga, it’s resulted in an anxiety which prevents her from travelling the metro without panic attacks, for Sergeyev a depression and compulsive workaholism that taints his relationship, and for Katya an unquenchable emptiness. But while they may have failed in their childhoods, as Sergeyev’s special mould destined to save the world from disease is flushed away, and Katya is unable to shop her bootlegging uncle to the police, they have a chance to be heroes in the here and now – as Olga accepts the everyday heroism of overcoming her agoraphobia, as Sergeyev acts too late to save a man from drowning and as Katya chooses to rescue a young girl caught up in a terrorist explosion, only to become a victim herself. A poignant and funny film about childhood dreams, unfortunately the Soviet sections are much better than the ones set in the present day, which are much looser and less engaging by comparison. But a quirky, nostalgic reminder of the pure-hearted desires of childhood and the broken promise of adulthood, Natalya Kudryashova’s Pioneer Heroes is a tender rumination on an uncertain present unable to capitalise on its past.

Pioneer Heroes is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival

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