Samostoyatelnaya Zhizn (An Independent Life) (1992)

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This is the second installment of a three-part series of autobiographical films about the director's life. The first, which won various awards for its maker, was entitled Zamri Oumi Voskresni and was later retitled Zari, Umri, Vokresni ("Freeze-Die-Come to Life"). At the end of that film, set at the conclusion of World War II, the young Valerka was striving hard to overcome the inertia of just getting by, along with his sometime friend Galiya. In this one, he is adjusting to Galiya's death and is back in school and is living with his mother, a prostitute. After a girl at the school is found to have been gang-raped, the headmaster chooses Valerka to be one of the scapegoats, though he had nothing to do with the deed. The punishment seems mild enough, he was simply expelled from school. However, after quarrelling with his mother about the incident, he takes to the road, and discovers a society so bleak, degraded and hopeless that it is a wonder he remained alive. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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