On 17 October 2019, teen drama “II” (“Two”) premiered at the Warsaw International Film Festival and received a Special Mention award from the Jury. At the film screening, the audience gave it an ovation.
This 60-minute drama about love, school, bullying, friendship and teen struggles was produced by Belarusian director Vlada Senkova in collaboration with the Visual and Performing Arts Center “ART Corporation” and the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education.
The Warsaw Film Festival is a major European film event often described as a Class A film festival, next to Cannes, Berlin and Venice.
Bringing fears and prejudice to the surface
The film features Sasha, Nastya and Christina, 16-year-old tenth-grade students who live an ordinary teen life, attending school and taking lessons from private tutors, going to movies and having fun at parties. But one day, their school is shaken by unexpected news which brings people’s hidden fears and prejudices to the surface.
The official film trailer (18+):
Are teenagers really free from prejudice? How far can they go in their intolerance of those who are different? What is the price of ignorance in matters such as health and sexual relations – the price that both children and their parents end up paying? What can be hiding behind the facade of wellbeing and orderly life of an average family? To what extent youth is forgiving of bad choices? Produced in a nearly documentary style, the film raises sensitive issues which are not considered appropriate for public discussion, let alone artistic representation, in many Eastern European countries.
Not “another teen drama”
“It makes us happy that this film is so much in line with UNESCO’s efforts to raise awareness on matters such as health and HIV and to prevent violence among teens and youth within the EECA region – and now even beyond, thanks to the film’s success at the Warsaw Film Festival. Cinema speaks a language which is powerful and widely understood, yet at the same time complex and multifaceted. This film is not only a strikingly honest and intense creative statement. The team working on this project has managed to address complex and sensitive realities while creating art rather than producing some sort of a public service announcement,” comments Tigran Yepoyan, UNESCO Regional Health Education Advisor.
Starring in the film are young actors Alina Yukhnevich, Alexey Vainilovich and Ilaria Shashko.
“For me, this film is about the lack of sex education in my own and neighboring countries. In particular, it explores how this lack of education affects adults, causing them to show aggression and ignorance. This film is not “another teen drama” – if only because adults also suffer in the story. Behind what seems to be careless teen behavior there is a major problem which can affect people of any age. This problem is ignorance: people do not have the knowledge of what they can and should do in a type of situation shown in the film. It’s not about following rules but about being aware of what we feel and what we do and being responsible, because our actions have consequences.
Based on our success at the Warsaw Film Festival and the early reviews, I can say that the audience can relate to the story: they cry and laugh and give their thanks. Maybe it’s just a drop in the bucket, but I hope that this film will help our society become more tolerant and educated,” says director Vlada Senkova.
“A window into the lives of young people”
In Warsaw, “II” competed in the Free Spirit nomination and was one of the two winners among the 14 films presented. At the closing ceremony, the Jury members Nadine Luque (UK), Lukasz Ronduda (Poland) and Anna Shalashina (Russia) commented on their decision: “This new cinematic voice from a country underrepresented on the world stage struck us with its bold, brave and fresh story addressing the brutal reality of social isolation.”
“…When I went to see the film, I did not know what to expect. I was afraid that it would be too sophisticated, ‘not for everyone’. But this film really has all that is needed to attract a big audience” (Alexandra, Russian language teacher)
“This film is amazing! For me, it opens a window into the lives of young people in Belarus. It raises very complex issues which concern not only Eastern Europe but everyone worldwide” (Ethan, film director, Ireland)
“I was really impressed by the film. At first I had no idea what it was about and wondered what the title might mean. I understood its meaning only when the title reappeared at the end… I believe that different generations, especially parents and teachers, will benefit from seeing this film.” (Zuzanna, market researcher).
“…I was quite shocked when I realized what the film’s main theme really was. I liked this plot twist a lot. May I mention spoilers? Better not? (laughs) Well, this film will suprise viewers with totally unexpected plot turns.” (Mike, author of a video blog about films)
Coming up next
The launch of “II” (“Two”) in Belarus will take place on 4 November in Pioneer Cinema Theater as part of the Listapad International Film Festival in Minsk. The film is expected to be shown in cinemas soon.