As the Covid-19 pandemic takes its death toll in Russia, the government imposes a strict round-the-clock curfew on its population of elderly. The drastic measures aim at protecting those who are the most vulnerable, but the distress among the people grows rapidly. Millions are stranded in their flats, some without immediate family, access to medication and even food. A municipal helpline is established for those seeking help in this extraordinary situation and this film documents the hundreds of phone calls received each day. These short conversations give a rare insight into the anxieties of those who grew up in Soviet Union and have largely been left to fend for themselves after the fall of communism.
This heterogeneous array of voices merges with a visual journey into the Saint Petersburg city scape depicting the intricacies of post-Soviet architecture, in particular firewalls through which, over the years, people have illegally pierced windows in attempt to lure sunlight into the dim apartments of the Khrushchev era. We discover the city through static shots where glimpses of the epidemic can be spotted as well as rare moments when the elderly venture out of their apartments despite the imposed curfew.
In the film’s finale the despair of the conversations is juxtaposed with Victory Day Celebrations which roll out interrupted with crowds gathering in the streets of Saint Petersburg. The only absentees are the elderly who are still locked down in their flats.