The soldiers who refused to die

CONFLICT: A Soviet soldier of Tatar descent captured by the Nazis during WWII leads to a story of an army caught between dictators.

«In the Soviet Union, only war heroes existed,» Sana, the daughter of a Red Army soldier captured in the Second World War, recalls. Her father had survived his gruelling ordeal only to fall into a black hole of oblivion afterwards, along with millions of other returning prisoners of war. Stalin had ordered troops to battle to the death and under no circumstances surrender — and contemptuously branded those who did as cowards and traitors, to be punished. Prisoners remained a taboo subject of discussion in Soviet society for decades, and anyone who questioned the state’s official version of history risked harsh repressive measures.

Turn Your Body to the Sun, a film by Aliona van der Horst
Turn Your Body to the Sun, a film by Aliona van der Horst

Redressing the silence

Turn Your Body to the Sun, a documentary by Aliona van der Horst which has its world premiere at IDFA, moves to redress this silence. Dedicated to the Soviet prisoners of war and their families, it draws on archival material from the era to recognise and endeavour to make sense of their experiences, restoring them to their rightful place within the broader history of the Soviet war effort. In the process, war is reframed and revealed not as a situation that naturally inspires noble idealism and valour (as the lens of nationalistic propaganda is accustomed to portraying it) but as a nihilistic void in which there . . .

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Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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