Dialogue: Alisa Khazanova and Vladimir Raevsky talk about the movie “The White List”


On Monday, March 4, ZIMA screened Alisa Khazanova's new film, The White List, at the Marylebone Theater in London. After the premiere, journalist Vladimir Raevsky and the director of the tape held an open Q&A session. The conversation allowed the audience to better understand not only the main characters of the film, but also to learn from the "first person" how the movie was created, what were the goals of the director and screenwriter, as well as why the complex and difficult topic of teenage suicides was chosen. We tell you how the dialog turned out.

The script of the picture, written by Roman Volobuev with the participation of Alisa Khazanova, is based on real social phenomena – teen suicides and the existence of so-called “death groups” on the Internet.

The plot of the picture unfolds around two employees of the investigative committee, who are sent to a small town near Moscow to investigate the suicide of a local high school girl Ana. During the investigation Korotkov (played by Alexei Serebryakov) and Lazarev (played by Vladimir Averyanov) have to not only find out the circumstances of the tragedy, but also ask a lot of difficult moral questions to themselves. The case stretches for years and leaves an indelible mark on all the active characters in the picture.

As Alisa Khazanova emphasized at the Q&A session that took place after the screening, this film clearly shows how the main anti-heroes can be not specific living characters with names and surnames, but human indifference, indifference and selfishness.

We share with you the full version of the discussion between Vladimir Rajewski and Alisa Khazanova.

Alice, first, I’d like you to punctuate the genealogy of this movie. I understand correctly that there was a big and rather high-profile article in Novaya Gazeta. It formed the basis of the script that Roman Volobuev offered to write. Isn’t that right?

– The article came out, and Volobuev wrote a Facebook post first. This post touched me deeply. Probably because I have two daughters, and I too belong to a generation of parents who didn’t really understand how to respond to kids “living” on the internet. After this article, which appeared in Novaya Gazeta, there were several movies – it’s hard to call them documentaries. They were actually just scaring people. We wanted to choose a different tone of conversation. And probably the main task was to build some kind of dialog in the society, which would pass without hysteria and scaremongering.

Why is the focus of your movie, not the suicidal teens themselves (or the kids who have committed suicide), but the people around them?

– Because the roots of this case are basically far-reaching. Adolescence is a difficult time in a person’s life, and everything that happens in society has a great impact on the still unformed personality. The picture shows a lot of indifference that ends up creating a kind of unloving situation. It’s exactly where all the characters in the movie are.

Why amidst this ocean of indifference, which “flooded” Podolsk, two people who are not indifferent are employees from the Investigative Committee?

– They’re not indifferent. They’ve just been sent to work, and at the beginning of the movie, they don’t really need all that much at all. One is a seasoned professional and the other is ambitious and wants to check the box. I think his fixation/obsession (about Vladimir Averyanov’s character) with the story has a lot to do with the fact that he’s used to winning and couldn’t believe that everything was right under his nose and he didn’t realize it.

Have you begun to understand roughly what happens to girls like that? Like the one that shows up at the very beginning of the movie and kills herself?

– I’m not a doctor, but I’ve had many conversations with psychologists and psychiatrists. I guess I became more aware while I was making this movie. But being a specialist is not my primary focus. My job as a filmmaker is to bring up some topic that I think is important to discuss and not forget.

What I can say is that it is very important that the teen’s environment understands what symptoms to read for. Often scary things can be prevented, but people do not understand what they are dealing with, nor how to react to it, and many aspects of the child’s behavior are written off to adolescence and bad moods.

Judging by the way Podolsk looks in the movie, all the spaces were filmed in real locations. “Mentovka” in “mentovka”, prison in prison, apartment in apartment, and so on. How did you manage to agree on all those “acronyms”?

– Yes, no pavilions were built for this movie. We wanted to shoot on real subjects, and we were able to do that almost everywhere. And how did we make a deal – how do we usually make a deal? – perfume, candy…(laughs)

Did I notice correctly that the movie often shows bright lights pouring across the screen and literally obscuring the viewer (and camera), why?

– There’s this stereotype that scary things happen in the dark. And here was a fundamentally decided moment that scary things happen in broad daylight too. This was one of the main themes of the movie. Yes, there is a lot of light in the painting, and we deliberately chose such an artistic solution.

Your characters, if I notice correctly, quite often speak in long monologues, which rarely happens at all. Why are they so prolonged in their candor?

– It’s a pretty risky thing to do, but I think it’s very workable. This style provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in history. But again, it’s a matter of taste and just our artistic choices, which I think in many ways gives you the opportunity to connect to the character more than if it were short phrases and a short montage.

Why is a history teacher convicted of pedophilia so frank with Alexei Serebryakov’s character who came to visit him in prison?

– First, because he’s not risking anything. And secondly, it’s an ambition – the ambition of a “megabrain” who thinks he knows how the world works. And this is largely the elusive nature of evil, which exists in a sense of superiority.

Why are half the characters in this movie so maniacally ambitious and with such a sense of superiority, omniscience, and intimate knowledge of the process?

– Aren’t there a lot of people like that in life? Every day there are bound to be five people who think they know best. It seems to be a very clear sign of how people are functioning in society as a whole right now. For example, social media. We have experts on every topic, though, and in such numbers that this fact from the movie just kind of reflects reality.

Photo: kate.kantur

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