A film which can be difficult to watch at times, Hanna Polak's Something Better To Come is a stark documentary chronicling the tough conditions in Svalka, Europe's largest junkyard. Located just 13 miles from the Kremlin, Moscow's extravagant showcase of strength and prestige, Svalka sits, a gigantic trash heap, where many individuals scavenge for survival in a place which more-so-than not is their last stop before death. Being under strict surveillance by Russian police, which allow absolutely no trespassing and no filming, Svalka has become a place of despair, where Vodka is the only currency which seems to matter, and the inhabitants of the dump struggle to survive. 14 years in the making, Hanna Polak's Something Better To Come is a stark and powerful documentary which uses the story of Yula, a beautiful 10-year-old girl who lives in Svalka, to examine the oppressive conditions in modern day Russia. Polak contrasts the abundances of Moscow with the scarcities of Svalka, painting a vivid portrait of a country that has left so many of its citizens behind. Given the subject matter, Something Better To Come is certainly a film that will be hard to watch for some viewers, as much of the film feels very much like a national geographic special of sorts. It's an observant documentary which attempts to simply capture the way of life of these impoverished citizens, whose day-to-day life is covered in despair. As I was watching Something Better To Come I feared it was another shining example of a documentary being praised more for its fascinating subject matter than its artistic merits, but fortunately that concern quickly vanished. Even in this stark, unforgiving world which many of these characters find themselves in, Polak's film captures the triumph of good-will, documenting the youthful exuberance which still exists in the children who life among the garbage, as well as the kindness of many of the adults, who generously share their vodka and last bits of dough or breadcrumbs amongst each other in order to survive. Given that this film was shot illegally, the documentary is very much in a guerrilla film-making style, but what stood out to me more than anything is the complacency in despair which Polak is able to capture. Documenting these individuals who live amongst the trash, Something Better To Come captures how stark conditions and an oppressive, corrupt regime can create a complacency, even in times of absolute stark despair, as many of the older individuals who live in Svalka have lost all hope at any semblance of a better life. Yula is the exception to his rule, a young woman who the filmmakers focus on throughout Something Better To Come, documenting her life from 10 to 24, the heart-and-soul of this story and a truly powerful story of perseverance. Yula is a character who never becomes complacent about the despair she witnesses, intent on leaving Svalka and attempting to make a better life for herself outside of the garage pile. A story of despair, oppression, corruption, and ultimately hope, Hanna Polak's Something Better To Come is a powerful human rights story that pulls back the curtain on a country that has left so many of its lower-class citizens struggling to survive.
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