Viktor Kossakovsky

The Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky became widely known with his film Belovy (“The Belows,” Russia 1993) which won numerous prizes and is considered one of the most important documentaries of the 90s. In his film Sreda (“Wednesday,” Germany/Great Britain 1997) he searches for all the people in St. Petersburg who were born on the same day as him (Wednesday, June 19, 1961) and constructs a rich and vivid portrait of everyday life in the Russian City. Sreda was produced by Viola Stephan Filmproduktion, Berlin, and Jane Balfour Films, London, with contributions (among others) from ZDF/Arte, the BBC and the Baltic Media Centre. (see also review and festival update in DOX # 11, June 1997).

DOX: According to your research,101 people were born in Leningrad on Wednesday , July 19, 1961. 70 of them live still in St. Petersburg and 60 appear in your film. How did you find all these people who were born on the same day as you?

Kossakovsky: I thought it would be easy to find everybody through the hospitals but for same strange reason many hospitals only keep birth records for 25 years. So I had to write letters to 500 towns and city districts in Russia to track the names and then afterwards it took one year, and in some cases four years to find the people.With women it was extremely difficult because they change names! In St.Petersburg it was evident that many had been born in the centre of the city, but later had moved to the outskirts.

What kind of agreement did you make with the participants ?

First of all they had to agree to be filmed. I invited everybody to the editing room to see the material. There is a lot of very strong material that I decided not to use. I could have used such material in a feature film, but not in a documentary because here you deal with real people.

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