The city of Visaginas was created from nothing in the 1970s in order to service a powerful Soviet nuclear power station. Literally designed and shaped like the wings of a butterfly, it was intended to be a window of Soviet progress to the West. After USSR disintegration, however, EU membership meant Lithuania has to close the plant, the city’s main industry. At a time of growing geo-political tension, and in an ambiance of mutual mistrust, what future for the 25,000 Russian-speaking townspeople?

Director Olga Černovaitė follows her first film, If Not You [see trailer], with this portrayal of a city that is refusing to die along with its defunct power plant. Instead, it is looking to the future and searching for a new face. This portrayal inevitably raises questions of democracy, inclusion, citizenship, and freedom of expression.

Refusing to take sides on particular grievances in this sensitive situation, the film is simply another way of asking a rather universal question: if there is a way for different communities living as citizens in the same democratic country to maintain their identity, respect that of others, and live together without fear or suspicion.

The director, herself born in Vilnius of Russian parents, undertakes a journey of discovery as she probes these intangible issues of language and culture – and ultimately about identity and belonging.

drawing: Kiril Nefedjev (8)