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Thursday, September 23, 2021


(Maria Fedorchenko plays Masha)

STOP-ZEMLIA (Ukraine 2021 – 120 minutes) (Subtitled)

Director: Kateryna Gornostai

(Stop Zemlia will feature on the programme of the European Film Festival which runs from October 14 to 24, 2021.)


“Stop Zemlia” could have done with some judicious editing. but is still worth viewing.  (Review by Barry Meehan)

While Ukranian director Kateryna Gornostai’s first feature film Stop Zemlia deals with teenage scholars coming of age, it is by no means your typical teen flick, seen so often emanating from the USA. There are no cheerleaders or jocks, just a class of pretty average teenage kids waiting – some more patiently than others – for their chance at creating a life for themselves outside the confines of their rather drab school precinct.

I have read that the director made a conscious decision not to go with any established actors for the film – instead hand-picking an assortment of youngsters who did not know each other before filming began. I am also led to believe that they were given the basic outline of the script, and improvised all the dialogue as they went along.

This technique does work for most of the film, but there are times when a few of the performers overlap each other, which makes the subtitles a tad messy at times. This is also compounded when text messages are seen on screen, adding to the subtitles. Unfortunately, there are quite a number of these messages as Masha (Maria Fedorchenko) chats via Instagram with an anonymous male, hoping that he is going to turn out to be her handsome schoolmate Sasha (Oleksandr Ivanov), the object of her - as yet - unrequited affection.

Masha is a bit of an introvert around her classmates, and is only truly grounded when hanging out with besties Yana (Yana Isaienko) and gender-fluid Senia (Arsenii Markov). They spend a lot of time together at Marsha’s parents’ up-market apartment, even having sleepovers together (with no hanky-panky) when her parents are away, which seems to be the case quite often.

The director takes us on a two-hour journey exploring the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, wary of what might await them in the wide, wicked world outside. She does this rather cleverly, giving us little slices of action in various situations - a school visit to an astrology museum, a weed and alcohol-fuelled party, which the others attend while the three leads are having one of their sleepovers, and strangest of all – a game of STOP-ZEMLIA, which seemed to be more the sort of game that primary school or pre-primary kids would be playing – a bit like Blind Man’s Buff without the blindfold! All these scenes – and more- are used to demonstrate how the various characters react in different situations.

Another gimmick used by the director to give us insight into the lives of the kids is a series of interviews with them throughout the film. I couldn’t be sure, however, if the actors or their characters were being interviewed. Some of the interviews, especially with the minor characters, tended to hold up what little action there was but some insights tended to help the viewer’s appreciation of what being a young Ukranian is all about, like this perspective from the leading actress/character:

“When I think too hard about things in the past or the future, I tend to lose my grip on the present. I’m not back there in the past, and I’m not there yet in the future. I only exist in the present.”

Stop Zemlia could have done with some judicious editing. but is still worth viewing. – Barry Meehan


Stop Zemlia can be seen free of charge from October 14 to 24, 2021, on the European Film Festival’s website. For more information visit