Rising Russian director Vladimir Bitokov’s sophomore effort, “Mama, I’m Home,” bows this week in the Horizons sidebar of the Venice Film Festival. Following on the heels of his 2018 Karlovy Vary premiere “Deep Rivers,” it’s produced by two-time Academy Award nominee Alexander Rodnyansky (“Loveless,” “Leviathan”) and Sergey Melkumov. Wild Bunch Intl. is handling world sales.
“Mama, I’m Home” is the story of a bus driver (Kseniya Rappoport) living on the outskirts of a provincial Russian town, where she awaits the return of her only son, who’s fighting for a private military contractor in Syria. When she’s told that he’s been killed in action, she refuses to believe it and begins a grueling public battle to fight for his return. But when all efforts to silence her prove fruitless, a mysterious young man (Yuri Borisov) arrives on her doorstep.
Bitokov told Variety that he was already developing a different feature when screenwriter Maria Izyumova sent him her script for the film. “After reading just the first couple of pages I knew I wanted to direct this film,” he said. “I think mostly it was because of Tonya — the woman who is not ready to lay down but chooses to fight instead.”
Bitokov is a graduate of the directing workshop founded by Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”), where his classmates included Kantemir Balagov, the director of 2019 Un Certain Regard prize winner “Beanpole,” and Kira Kovalenko, who won this year’s Grand Prize in the Cannes sidebar for her feature debut “Unclenching the Fists.”
He described studying under the celebrated Russian director as “a chance of a lifetime.” “It was a five-year-long process of creating my identity again from scratch,” he said. “And like any creative process it was a hard road to walk and took a lot of effort.”