Taskovski Films has picked up “Turn Your Body to the Sun,” which world premieres in the International Competition section of IDFA, one of the world’s top documentary film festivals. The sales agency is hoping to replicate the success it had with “Radiograph of a Family,” which won Best Feature-Length Documentary Award at last year’s festival.
“Turn Your Body to the Sun,” directed by Dutch filmmaker Aliona van der Horst, tells the story of a Soviet Tatar prisoner of war. After World War II, he is sent to one of Stalin’s brutal camps where the love for an unknown girl becomes his salvation. Sixty years later his daughter Sana is tracing the path of her silent father.
Sana tries to understand what made him the man she knew as a child, through his diaries, various personal and public archives, and registries. As she accompanies the daughter in her journey, the filmmaker excavates film archives, to find traces of those millions of Soviet soldiers who were caught in the fire of dictators fighting, who were there but were left out of the narrative of the war.
Van der Horst’s last film, “Love Is Potatoes,” a first-person doc that deals with post-memory in contemporary Russia, won the Golden Calf Award, the top prize in Dutch filmmaking, in 2018. Her film “Boris Ryzhy” won the IDFA Mid Length Competition Award in 2008. Her films revolve around the question of how ordinary people’s lives are shaped by big historical events, often focusing on Russia, where she was born.
Van der Horst commented: “I am convinced that Russia’s unresolved past strongly determines the present. My previous film, ‘Love Is Potatoes,’ dealt with Stalin’s inhuman treatment of the peasants and the resulting intergenerational traumas of my own peasant family. In my new film ‘Turn Your Body to the Sun’ I take a look at another part of Russian history: The fate of the World War II prisoners of war, but always with an eye to the ways in which history influences the present.
“Sana Valiulina, the film’s protagonist, had a father who suffered an impossible fate. He never spoke about this fate during his life – it’s hard to find words for such overwhelming, traumatic experiences, and the Soviet Union’s psychological terror denied him the chance to speak out. In the narrative of the Great National War, as World War II is called in Russia, there is still little place for the common man’s shocking, horrifying experience of war and labor camps.”
The film is produced by Ilja Roomans at Docmakers, a collective of documentary filmmakers led by Roomans. Roomans has 20 years of experience producing both Dutch productions and international co-productions. Recent work and films in production include “On Day Eight” by Yan Ting Yuen and Robert Kosters, “Heart of Democracy” by Suzanne Raes, “Crazy Days” by Sanne Rovers, “Justice Under Suspicion” by Maria Ramos (in co-production with Gebrueder Beetz), “A Parked Life” by Peter Triest (in co-production with Savage Film), “Master of Light” by Rosa Ruth Boesten (in collaboration with One Story Up).
“Turn Your Body to the Sun” was produced in co-production with NTR, and in co-operation with Südwestrundfunk. It is supported by The Netherlands Film Fund, The Netherlands Film Production Incentive, NPO Fund, CoBO, AFK and Wilhelmina E. Jansenfonds.