Do films in Belarusian have a chance beyond Minsk beltway?


The family movie My Giraffe dubbed in the Belarusian language gathered full houses in Minsk. The film was screened in 15 cinemas and watched by 5000 people. But in Barysau, 100 km off the capital city, the situation was quite the opposite. A retired woman and her granddaughter had to walk back home after they ended up to be the only viewers and the screening was cancelled. 

Why are the films in Belarusian popular in the Minsk cinemas but seemingly have little or no demand in the provinces? Have they forgotten the Belarusian language beyond the Minsk beltway? Euroradio went to verify the things on the ground.

"Preschoolers may not understand all of Belarusian words"

Yulia Isayonak from the October cinema in Barysau confrms to Euroradio that the screening was indeed cancelled. Attendance was low on the other screening days as well. My Giraffe was in the local cinemas for seven days, with each screening attended by 6-10 people only. What scared the locals away? Yulia reckons the problem was with the age restriction 0+. Films in Belarusian rather target high-school students, while "preschoolers may not understand all of the Belarusian words."

В Минске полный зал, в Борисове отмена. Фильмы по-белорусски не нужны за МКАД?

"Last year, we screened Storm: Letter of Fire also dubbed in Belarusian. The movie was about book-publishing in the Middle Ages, Martin Luther. It has an older target audience, hence many schoolchildren came. Both the pupils and their teachers said they were happy," Yulia recalls .

"The problem is definitely not with translation"

В Минске полный зал, в Борисове отмена. Фильмы по-белорусски не нужны за МКАД?

Andrei Kim, the Belarusian Weekends project manager [they dub foreign films into Belarusian], has learned from Euroradio that the screening of My Giraffe was cancelled in Barysau.

"It is sad what happened to the film in Belarusian but it may happen to any film," he says. " The problem is definitely not with translation. Firstly, a lot depends on the time of screening: it may be simply not convinient. Secondly, there is little special effects in My Giraffe - that could also be a factor for some people. And finally and most importantly, it is easier for us to advertisie films in Minsk. We do not have enough funds to promote the screenings in the regions. However, it is important to give people an opportunity to watch a movie in Belarusian."

According to Andrei, My Giraffe was already screened in Minsk, Minsk region, Vicebsk and Brest.

We are calling Brest. Valiantsina Zaitsava from the Mir cinema says the film dubbed in Belarusian was screened in their movie theater for the first time ever. Nearly 400 people came to watch the three screenings. Every time, the house was full.

"Schoolchildren attended in an organized way. There also ordinary viewers with their parents," she says. The film is good, even though dubbed in Belarusian. People were saying thank-you. Nobody complained that the movie was screened in the Belarusian language. As part of the screening, we also organized 'a conversation about the Belarusian language.'

It turns out the situation in Barysau is not symptomatic for all other regions. Is it too early to conclude that Belarusians do not attend the screenings dubbed in Belarusian? The 'language inspector' Ihar Sluchak thinks so:

"The problem is not with the language or a film. I was at the Mova Nanova (Belarusian language promotion lectures) courses in Barysau, and there were more people there than in Homiel. There is quite a number of people in town speaking Belarusian. I think the problem is something else. People often organize interesting projects but sometimes forget to advertise them properly. My guess would be that the screening in the October cinemas was a faliure due to the lack of promotion."

My Giraffe dubbed in Belarusian will be screened soon in Hrodna, Mahilou and Homiel.