“With one of Russia's most industrially brutal and polluted cities as a backdrop, 'Harmony' explores the self understanding
and gender roles of Russian youth through the country's two proudest sports: Ice hockey and rhythmic gymnastics.
Frederick Paxton has a photographer's eye for the vulnerability of the young bodies and faces, as they eagerly fight to live up to the sports' immense masculine and feminine ideals, and which are often their only hope to get away from Chelyabinsk – a city the size of Copenhagen located in the Ural Mountains, close to Siberia. The winter cold transforms the heavy industrial landscapes into a dark and poetic universe through Paxton's lens, and places the film itself in the field between cinema vérité and photo art. But 'Harmony' is also a snapshot of a Russia that is both in the shadow of the greatness of its past, and where a young generation is heading towards an unknown future.”
“Boldly associative urban symphony reveals the terrible beauty found in the highly polluted Siberian city of Chelyabinsk. Amid this mesmerising mix of images, director Frederick Paxton highlights the often punishing rituals inflicted on young Russian boys and girls. A dense, hypnotic crust of music from opera to East European hip hop underscores this city portrait quite unlike any other”
Sheffield Doc|Fest (2018)
"Harmony is a moving
meditation on identity and expectations in modern Russia. Beautifully shot and thoughtfully
observed, the film captures the raw and delightfully surreal reality of life in
the Siberian heartland. The young heroes, skating and pirouetting across
screen, become metaphors for the country at large, seeking ideals that remain
tantalizingly out of reach."
“ The Economist”, Moscow Correspondent
. . . . . . . .
The Harmony Series is a project deeply rooted in my personal history, started a year ago. The series are named after the school of rhythmic gymnastics-“Harmony”,where i spent most of my childhood. It is in my hometown of Chelyabinsk, a distant place for me now,sprawling from the edges of the mineral rich Ural mountains.
These images for me show the space between body and memory. An image can be an act of looking which both unfold the present and extends escaped memories.
The sport of rhythmic gymnastics with its nationalistic pride, beauty and painful reality is set against one of the most polluted and industrially brutal places in Russia, that to me still holds a powerful beauty. The long lost dreams of soviet scale, the loud, gaudy colors of the leotards,an alcoholic who barely acknowledges the camera with nothing more than an empty glance as he fixes his ancient VOLGA-all this holds tangible humanity and deep memories.
As it is usually seen by the spectator, rhythmic gymnastics is a harmonious blend of art and dance. The sport highly emphasizes femininity in girls, which is also inherent in Russian culture itself. The girl is being taught to sculpt her body, perfect her moves, be graceful in every moment, which can only be achieved with endless tedious repetition. From a very early age she becomes aware of her body and the hypnotizing effect it can have on the viewer.
The city plays crucial role in the series. With limited resources and options Chelyabinsk can offer,this sport becomes almost a necessity, a way of social mobility for the young girls.The inherent grace and pain that belongs to gymnastics is juxtaposed with these harsh industrial landscapes, in an attempt to capture the fragile beauty of the place in present moment,constructed from the stain of memory it left behind.