The movie

The Pencil

Natalya Nazarova’s biting critique of contemporary Russia follows Antonina, an art teacher in a remote town who fights an uphill battle against the hostile locals.

Length: 93 min
Country: Russia
Language spoken: Russian
Language subtitles: English
Cast: Nadezhda Gorelova, Alexander Kolchevsky, Vladimir Mishukov, Olesya Ivantsova, Kirill Veselov
Director: Natalya Nazarova
Release date: 2019


Winner of the Audience Award and the Best Film and Best Actress prizes at the Honfleur Festival of Russian Cinema, writer-director Natalya Nazarova’s biting critique of contemporary Russia focuses on Antonina, a smart and forceful artist (the radiant Nadezhda Gorelova) from Saint Petersburg, who finds herself in a northern forest town after her activist husband, Sergei (Vladimir Mishukov), is imprisoned there. She takes a job teaching art at the local school, where she is opposed by some students and, more surprisingly, faculty. As things escalate, Antonina comes to realise she is up against a society broken to the core…

Nazarova offsets her critique by capturing the region’s luminous light and the faded beauty of its coloured wooden-plank buildings, structures that hint at better times in the past. And behind it all looms the forest and the town’s huge factory, which transforms the towering trees into the simple tool that an artist can use to express so much…