Harmony Trailer

“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.”
CPH:DOX (2018)

“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."

Noah Snider, Moscow Correspondent at “The Economist”

HARMONY -  photo story

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 the 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 emphasises 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.

@Maria Babikova2024