Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  77 minutes
Date:  2012
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Russian / English subtitles
Grade level: 9-12, college, adult
Color/BW:  Color
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900 Days

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Unforgettable life stories told by survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, where more than 1 million people died during World War II.

900 Days

Is it better to acknowledge an unpalatable truth or to embrace the comfort of myth? Jessica Gorter's 900 DAYS contrasts the devastating and unforgettable stories recounted by survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, the infamous German blockade, which caused the deaths of more than 1 million people during World War II, with the triumphant memorials fabricated by the Russian state.

The blockade, one of the most incredible, defining events of World War II, remains largely unremembered outside of Russia. In September 1941, the 3 million inhabitants of the city now known as St. Petersburg were trapped without food or drinking water. For 900 days of subzero temperatures, people had to eat glue, leather soles, cats, and perhaps even their fellow human beings. When the city finally opened up again, nearly a million had died.

Immediately after the war, investigations of the blockade were forbidden. The Soviet propaganda machine transformed the survivors into a symbol of national heroism, silencing any questions about Stalin's war policy and its toll on the lives of ordinary Russians.

In 900 DAYS, Gorter employs newly declassified material from the Secret Service archives that reveals, in coldly impersonal statistics, the extent of cannibalism in the blockaded city and the population's fury with their own authorities. Footage of present-day Russian memorials to the survivors of the siege illustrate the persistence of the official, heroic account of the event even in light of this new information.
Elsewhere in the film, survivors speak openly, many for the first time in their lives, about their experiences and the post-war censorship. Their painful memories overshadow the public myth in which some of them had previously participated. All their lives they have been told they were heroes who guided the country toward victory, but they are increasingly aware that true recognition of their traumatic experience and the ruinous policies that allowed it to continue is still, even after half a century, far away.

'Superb! A throat-gripping look at history and its continuing ramifications. Captures in 77 deeply troubling minutes the contradiction between the oficial version of a heroic populace persevering for the Motherland, and the private bitterness of a people disgusted by the way the Soviets and their heirs avoid questions of responsibility. Beautifully integrates past and present...900 DAYS shows that even grasping the horrors on an individual level is ultimately a task few are capable of comprehending.' -Jay Weissberg, Variety

'These stories are not for the faint of heart. But the documentary will help students to understand the difference between memory and history, and between the heroic stories states often tell about wars and the suppression of the real events that did not fit their narratives. As such, this is an ideal documentary to show in any history class dealing with World War II or Soviet history.' -Educational Media Reviews Online


Awards

** Best Dutch Documentary, 2011 IDFA Amsterdam
** Special Jury Prize, 2011 ArtDocFest Moscow
** Interreligious Prize and Special Mention for Grand Prize, 2012 Visions du Reel
** Special Mention, Magic Hour Award, Plante Doc, Warsaw
** Official Selection, Transylvania Film Festival, Romania
** Nominee, Estonian People's Award, Parnu International Documentary Festival
** Official Selection, Dokufest Prizren, Kosovo
** Official Selection, 2013 Palm Springs International Film Festival

Citation

Main credits

Gorter, Jessica (screenwriter)
Gorter, Jessica (film director)
Engel, Frank van den (film producer)
Agt, Beatrijs van (screenwriter)
Winden, Marieke van der (screenwriter)

Other credits

Cinematography, Sander Sneop; editing, Danniel Danniel; music, Frank Gorter.


Distributor credits

Jessica Gorter

Docuseek2 subjects

Russia and the former Soviet Union
World War II
War and Peace
Human Rights
European History

Distributor subjects

Eastern Europe
History (World)
Human Rights
Russia
World War II

Keywords

Russia; Leningrad; Seige of Leningrad; Blockade; hunger; survival; oral history; oran histories of; German; starvation; starve; World War II; WWII; Jessica Gorter; 900 Days; Germany; Russian; Stalin; testimony; witness; cannibalism; German; Nazi; army; embargo; Stalin; St Petersburg; documentary; film; video; DVD; "900 Days"; Icarus Films;

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