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Film review: Unclenching the Fists (2021) by Kira Kovalenko

Film review: Unclenching the Fists (2021) by Kira Kovalenko

Claustrophobia suffocates the big screen in Kira Kovalenko’s latest feature, “Unclenching the Fists.” Kovalenko’ sophomore film won Un Certain Regard at Cannes and then made its North American premiere at Telluride. Here — in this ex-mining town — the contrast could not have felt more ironic. Compared to the verdant Rockies, Kovalenko’s film ruminates upon the ashy Caucasus. Rolling hills of dust restrain, rather than expand, the characters on-the-ground — leaving us chained to circumstance along with the rest of the cast. Compared to the glee and the glamor of the festival outdoors, “Unclenching the Fists” languishes in the hopelessness of the future.

After all, nothing much is going for Ada (Milana Aguzarova), a universally adored, single Ossetian woman. After a bombing incident in her childhood, the men in her life just can’t seem to let her go. Her father, Zaur (Alik Karaev), hides her passport to keep her in-town.

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