A most impressive fiction-feature debut, My Joy starts as the tale of Georgy, a driver who heads off from his hometown with a truckload of goods for the market. A wrong turn leads him onto the back roads of the region and seemingly deeper into the area’s hidden history.

Weaving together several stories, Sergei Loznitsa creates an unsettling portrait of a world deceptively tranquil in appearance but harbouring long-festering resentments and violence that can surface without warning. The film beautifully moves between two modes – one decidedly contemporary, the other more historical or even mythic, as if these characters are always part of a larger, obscured reality of which they themselves are scarcely aware.

Director Loznitsa excels with his remarkable portrayal of the corruption and squalor rampant in rural Russia while the myriad scenes of quiet violence serve to accentuate the vast emptiness of the surrounding landscape.

My Joy is an encouraging example of the terrific work beginning to emerge again from the nations of the former Soviet Union.

New York International Film Festival Programme