QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
It’s 1990. Sicty-two-year-old Raya (Maria Belkin) and her husband Victor (Vladimir Friedman) have just migrated to Israel, leaving behind their home nation and decades of dubbing foreign films into Russian for Soviet audiences. They have to grapple with a number of novel challenges: finding a job, paying rent, filling out paperwork and living with the constant fear of a chemical attack (it was of the year the First Gulf War). They also have to learn Hebrew from scratch, a language entirely foreign to the, despite their Jewish heritage.
Due to her impressive vocal skills – she can switch from one voice to another effortlessly – Raya quickly lands a well-paid job as a… telephone sex worker. She must entertain and tickle the libido of Sergey, Serge and many other lonely males at the other end of the line. Her husband – who’s blithely unaware of the real nature of his wife’s new occupation – also leverages his past work experiences. He finds work as a dubber in the video shop catering for Russian speakers. The trade is entirely illegal. Videos are captured with a hidden camera inside in the movie theatre, and Victor has to assist on every step of the operation (not just the dubbing bit).
These various pressures and changes take their toll on Raya and Victor’s marriage, and their once solid relationship begins to collapse. A brand new love grows in the most unlikely of places, but could it also blossom? Golden Voices has some ingredients an old-age romcom, yet it’s never mawkish and implausible. In fact, it’s perfectly relatable and credible – whatever your age, religion and nationality. Belkin is beyond magnificent with her large pearly eyes and expressive lips. She combines an exuberant personality with a quiet and yet assertive joie-de-vivre. She’s delicious to watch. Friedman is also very convincing as the devoted husband and cinephile.
Raya is seeking a sense of freshness and adventure, some sort of personal rebirth. She can act and sound 22 years of age whenever she wishes. There’s a real sense of tenderness in her strength. She is a fascinating artist and human being.
This 88-minute-long Israeli movie is a also a nostalgic tribute to the seventh art. Fellini is repeatedly referenced through the movie, particularly 8 1/2 (1962) and The Voice of the Moon, which was in cinemas in the year our story takes place. The movie theatre is a place for redemption and reconciliation, the final sequence reveals. Golden Voices is also a hilarious movie. The awkward sex phone sequences will have your bursting out with laughter. The movie even manages to find both humour and warmth in a possible chemical attack.
Director Evgeny Ruman and cinematographer Ziv Berkovich joined forces in order to write the fascinating screenplay based on their very own childhood experiences upon arriving in Israel in the year of 1990. Their parents worked as dubbers in the Soviet Union prior to immigration.
Golden Voices has just premiered in Competition at the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. A strong contender for the event’s top prize. Our editor Victor Fraga is covering the event live, as a special guest.