High in the mountains of North Ossetia, a small mining town of Mizur nestles between the sheer cliffs. Following certain dramatic events, Zaur moved his children Ada, Akim and Dakko here. Zaur is a strict father who prizes discipline above all and doesn’t feel the difference between care and overprotection. His eldest son, Akim, already escaped from his father to work in Rostov, the closest city to Mizur. His younger brother, Dakko, has yet to decide what he wants from life, and their sister Ada is actively planning her escape. She is a grown woman but her father still treats her as a baby. Ada will soon realise that it will be very hard to escape her father's embrace and begin her own new life. The return of her older brother Akim will illuminate the family’s unspoken and unhealed traumas.

Director's Statement

The first time I had an idea for this story was when I read William Faulkner’s novel "Intruder in the Dust". Faulkner writes that some people can’t survive slavery but no one can survive freedom.

For me the idea of freedom as a burden became the most important idea while I was working on this film.
When I was contemplating this concept my thoughts inevitably led me to thinking about the burden of memory and how the two are connected with each other. Can a person be truly free from memory and survive?

I looked deep into my own memories, trying to analyse my own burden and found that it contained an event that fractured and traumatised me and many people I know. This is how this story was born, a story about characters who survived this event and who, years afterwards, are trying to cope with trauma.

They live in a world that is still injured by this catastrophe. They are fractured inside and this trauma affects and changes all relationships inside their families. An effort to forget becomes an act of violence against a person’s will and paradoxically this violence is born from love.

My characters live in an old mining town high in the mountains of North Ossetia. The mines are no longer operational and time has stopped here. Here high-rises stand silently behind high walls as if this is the place where you can hide something, save something, imprison something.

Director's Biography

Kira Kovalenko was born in Nalchik. She graduated from Alexander Sokurov’s directing workshop at Kabardino-Balkarian State University in 2015. UNCLENCHING THE FISTS is her second feature film after SOFICHKA (2016) which premiered at the Tallinn International Film Festival (Black Nights Film Festival).


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Kira Kovalenko

Written by: Kira Kovalenko, Anton Yarush, Lubov Mulmenko

Produced by: Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergey Melkumov

Cinematography: Pavel Fomintsev

Editing: Mukharam Kabulova

Production Design: Sergey Zaikov

Costume Design: Asya Belova

Make-Up & Hair: Anna Esmont

Sound: Rostislav Alimov

Cast: Milana Aguzarova (Ada)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Editing 2021
  • Feature Film Selection 2021