Sasha Shegai

Kazachstán

Sasha Shegai

režie, producent

Acting Classes

Vera, 87, ends up in a nursing home against her will. Living in Moscow with her son’s family doesn’t go well, and Vera is sent back to Almaty to a nursing home. Vera takes the move to heart and hopes to return home. She regularly calls her son. In repeating conversations she’s asking him to take her home or at least come visit. Trying to adapt to a new environment, Vera comes to a casting call at a theatre club within the home and lands the main part in an amateur production of “Little Prince”. The cast consists of people from various social backgrounds – from a former prison guard and a shepherd to Soviet establishment. Actors transfer their life experience into their roles, playing themselves under the masks of characters. Through rehearsals and paired readings Vera gets to know life stories of people who’d been living in the home for years. Along with social adaptation, Vera gains some skills to make her life a little brighter – she learns to act in given circumstances.

As time passes, the hope to return home diminishes. After a year and a half Vera finally realizes that she’s in the nursing home forever, and there’s nothing in her life that she can change. But only in real life. In the film she can play out several endings. Using newly acquired theatrical skills, we play out Vera’s alternative endings within the walls of the institution. In one of them she’s sailing away with a new suitor, in another one – having dinner with her first love, in yet another one – becomes a famous actress. Or meets with her son. A made-up world wins over the frightening reality.

Vera’s tragicomical story passes against the background of the state institution routine. Weird concerts, circus and puppet shows get mixed up with admissions of newcomers, farewells to the passed away, out-of-turn presidential elections and a political flashmob. Vera’s personal story becomes an allegory of a life in a closed system and attempts to find one’s place in it.
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