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Needles

In the crumbling Soviet Union, Andrei, a meek boy of 11, faced with an illness, is forced to enter a children's hospital for a long-term stay. Typical of the period, this hospital is decrepit, starved and forgotten; a place where food and hot water is scarce and treatments are feared. Under the stern watch of the head Nurse Nikitina, Andrei tries to make sense of his new surroundings. Instantly ransacked by a pack of boys in the ward, he soon discovers the rigid hierarchy that exists between all the patients, and learns that in this hospital nothing and nowhere is safe. Yet as Andrei watches and learns, he begins to understand that the pack is driven not just by starvation or menace, but also by fear. Fear of the cold eyes of Head Nurse Nikitina who strides through the hallways through day and through night. Fear of the severe Doctor Smirnov who is measured and cold, appearing to almost enjoy the procedures he performs on the boys. In these trying conditions, Andrei begins to suspect that illness is just one of the things he needs to survive.

Film notes

The coming of age story is one of the most universal. One that we all in one way or another experience. These are the kinds of stories that interest me most.

Needles sprung out of a combination of childhood memories, parental stories and my affection for unsavory characters. Having spent time in a hospital as a young child, I vividly remember the fear and dread of being led into the hospital and leaving the security and protection of parents behind. Though no doubt warped by a child’s imagination and time, these memories as well as the horror stories of institutional Soviet life felt dramatically potent.

I started to wonder (as well as remember) what it was like for these boys. Boys who stood on the verge of learning to take risks and make difficult choices. Boys who were on occasion forced to do so, despite their condition or age. Needles is not a story about the ‘Russian Hospital’ or the nature of Russian people. It is a story about a young boy who in these trying circumstances begins to understand what it is to grow up and make these tough choices.

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Copyright

Copyright © 2011 Alexei Mizin

Previous screenings

2011
22 Aug – 27 Aug | Odense, Denmark

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Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 14 Apr 2011