A needle slides under the skin, pierces a vein, and blood snakes through coiled plastic tube into a bag. Blood donors wince, look away, or try to act nonchalant. Others swoon. The blood continues to flow.
Filmed in black-and-white, and set in small-town north-western Russia, BLOOD is a remarkable, multi-layered documentary that follows the nurses of a mobile blood collection unit as they travel through the desolate, post-industrial landscape, often on dangerously snowy roads.
Blood donation provides a crucial source of income for many. "This is compensation for food, not for the blood," says a nurse. "You give your blood for free." It's a fiction both donors and nurses are happy to maintain, although the reality bursts through from time to time. A woman insists she should be allowed to donate, even though she doesn't have the right paperwork, and when a middle-aged man who has said he wants to give blood "to help people" realizes that the nurse is serious about turning him away, he becomes belligerent, saying he's broke and offering to sell his blood for half price. He's thrown out—not for arguing, but for refusing to stop talking about money.
Olga jokes with a patient about marrying him ("your blood will flow twice as fast!"), parties hard in a succession of grim hostels in the evenings, and earns the disapproval of the den mother of the group when she starts work clearly hung over one morning.
The tight-knit group of nurses are jaded—one says she doesn't want to go to a particular town, because all they'll get is blood tainted with Hepatitis and HIV—but retain a sense of humor, and even order delivery of vodka to the blood collection center. Despite the hiccups, they are clearly dedicated professionals—unheralded stalwarts of the Russian health-care system.
A favorite of international film festival audiences, BLOOD is a brilliant and beautifully-shot verite portrait of a passionate, flawed group of women and a struggling society in transition.
"A precise, concise torrent of images from one of Russia's best young documentary-makers. Russian filmmaker Alina Rudnitskaya's latest documentary goes well beyond merely just the raw and the visceral: Blood is also a cerebral, multi-layered piece about the organization of women workers in a social system slowly cast asunder in economic quicksand." —The Hollywood Reporter
Silver Eye Award, Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival
Golden Frog, Jerusalem Film Festival
Grand Prize, ArtDocFest Moscow
Official Selection, London Film Festival
Official Selection, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
Official Selection, Docpoint Helsinki
Official Selection, Tempo International Documentary Film Festival Stockholm
Official Selection, EDOC International Documentary Film Festival Ecuador
Official Selection, Krakow International Film Festival
Official Selection, Gdansk I International Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection, Pärnu International Documentary Film Festival
"Offering an offbeat glimpse of life in a socially and ecocomically transitioning Russia.... Recommended." –Video Librarian