Extremes meet in Venice

Viva las Antipodas! – a new film by one of Russia’s leading documentary film-makers, Viktor Kosakovsky, will have its world premiere at the 68th Venice International Film Festival where it will be screened out-of-competition, on the opening night.

­It has been described as a “revolutionary film that gives three cheers to our planet and its people in all their antagonisms and commonalities: Vivan las Antipodas!”

The documentary by the St Petersburg-based director takes the viewers on a breathtaking trip to the world’s few inhabited antipodes: that is, places you would arrive at if you dug straight through the earth and out the other side. The film uses unprecedented camera movements.

The unconventional Russian film-maker made his name as the author of Wednesday 19.7.1961, an award-winning documentary about people who were born in what was then Leningrad on the same day as the director.

The idea for Viva las Antipodas! is said to have come from children’s questions about the antipodes, such as, where would we come out if we dug a tunnel right through the centre of the Earth? Or, what’s happening at this exact moment beneath our very feet on the other side of the planet?

“In a small village with very few houses in the countryside of Argentina, I saw a man fishing from a small bridge. Beneath the sunset light, that simple place looked to me like the most beautiful and peaceful on Earth,” Kosakovsky explained.

“I imagined – what if I were to extend this fishing line straight down, through the center of the Earth? What will I see on the other side? As it turned out, one of the most powerful, bustling and noisy cities on the planet – Shanghai. Then I learned that since most of the planet is covered by water, there are only a few inhabited antipodal counterparts in the northern hemisphere. For instance, in all of Europe only Spain has an antipode – New Zealand. The USA only has one such place – in Hawaii, which is opposite to Botswana, the only true antipode in Africa. We were also filming in the most beautiful and cinematographic locations, which are in my opinion, Lake Baikal and Cape Horn. Sometimes you have a good idea for a film, but once you make it, you realize that the idea is better than the real truth. For Vivan las Antipodas!  [it] was [the] opposite! The idea was cool, but what I found in reality is even more unbelievable and surprising,” the director explained.

Since the early 1990s, films by Kosakovsky have picked up more than 100 national and international prizes, among them his breakthrough feature The Belovs, Tishe! and Svyato. His Viva las Antipodas! will be screened at the Venice International Film Festival on August 31.

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