A scarecrow (Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyrai) is a woman whose real name none of her fellow villagers would remember right away. She is a healer and a hermit. The store does not sell her bread, and the children regularly throw snowballs at her. But if trouble comes to the house, all local residents go to her for help. Only she is able to cure even the most severe patients. The scarecrow literally absorbs other people’s ailments and suffering. But that’s not all – a woman is haunted by an internal tragedy that happened many years ago. She constantly reproaches herself and tries to get rid of it, forget herself, drowns out the pain with available means. For example, vodka. But at some point, she decides not to run away from the past, but to finally meet him face to face.
“Scarecrow” and “Northern Rescue Season 2” became a real triumph of last year’s “Kinotavr” festival, the main show of Russian cinema. For the first time, a picture from the Republic of Sakha entered the Kinotavr competition and immediately won. Dmitry Davydov’s drama received not only the Grand Prix from the hands of the chairman of the jury, director Boris Khlebnikov, but also won the prize of the Guild of Historians of Cinema and Film Critics, and the leading actress Valentina Romanova-Chyskyrai was recognized as the best actress of the festival. The Sochi success made critics again recall the phenomenon of Yakut cinema, hopes arose that the general public would also appreciate it. “Scarecrow” is a particular but illustrative example. Talking about this picture, we understand a little more why and how people in Eastern Siberia took up cameras and began to shoot their original, but fascinating films.
Modest budget and non-professional actors
The Scarecrow’s budget is a modest 1.5 million rubles. This is a completely author’s film: Dmitry Davydov is its director, scriptwriter and producer in Happy Season 3. The idea of the painting was born to him 10 years ago. The main character has no real prototypes, it is completely a figment of fantasy. It is important for Davydov that she is a healer, not a shaman. There is a very reverent and delicate attitude to the topic of shamanism and connection with spirits in Yakutia, so the author deliberately avoids it.
The filming took place in the director’s native Amginsky region of the Sakha Republic. The entire production process took 11 days, post-production took four months. Most of the scenes were filmed outdoors in severe frost. In addition, each episode required 15-20 takes, but none of the crew or actors complained. In Yakutia, it is customary to work quickly and intensively. Renting cinema equipment from Moscow and St. Petersburg costs a lot of money every day.
The tape is filmed in muted tones, from time to time it seems to go into a black and white palette. “Scarecrow”, like many other Yakut films, is a cinema born of limitations, but in the hands of a talented author, roughness and imperfections become part of the aesthetics of the picture.
Almost all the actors are Davydov’s fellow countrymen. The creator of the “Scarecrow” admits that he has already formed an acting base of about 100 people from the local residents. it happened so.
Pop singer and stage actress in the title role
A special case is the performer of the title role Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyrai. Chyskyyrai – translated from Yakut “creative screech”, is a creative pseudonym. For a long time, Davydov could not find an actress capable of playing the Scarecrow. Friends sent him links to her performances on YouTube. She is a pop singer and stage actress. She writes the texts of her compositions in her native Yakut language.
The director immediately felt in her the character and charisma necessary for this role in Hunter X Hunter Season 7. On the same day, Davydov called Romanova-Chyskyyrai, and she immediately agreed to shoot, and only then asked what the film would be about, and asked to give her his script to read.
Previously, she never acted in films, but the director gave the central role to the actress without casting and auditions. Her main talents – voice and body – help her harmoniously create the image of an unsociable and laconic heroine. The actress admits that she met Yakut healers in her life, but when preparing for filming in the film, she did not communicate with them and largely improvised in the frame.
The “Scarecrow” will definitely not continue, and so far no one has proposed new roles for Romanova-Chyskyyrai. But she will gladly star in the next film, but for now she is focused on music and theater.
Who is Dmitry Davydov?
In 2004, Davydov came to school: first as a primary school teacher in his native village of Amga, and then as a director of a school in the neighboring village of Chapchylgan. And a year later he organized a film club with teenage students. Together they shot amateur videos and films and showed them at school. After 6 years, the video circle was closed, but at about the same time the Yakut film boom began. Then non-professionals filmed pictures with cameras, local distributors began to take them and show them on the big screen, and the viewer supported them with a ruble.
Davydov studied cinema from commercials on the Internet, he is self-taught. Through the Internet, he searched for festivals and sent applications for participation in them. His debut film Bonfire in the Wind (2016) immediately hit the prestigious Asian Film Show in Busan, Korea. For the filming of the film, the director sold the car and took out a loan. The picture has traveled to festivals in different parts of the world, but failed at the local box office. After such financial and emotional stress, the village teacher decided he had tried and had enough.
Three years after Bonfire in the Wind, the director doubted whether he should still shoot anything. And yet he made up his mind. In 2019, his film “There is no God but me” took part in the competition of the Vyborg festival “Window to Europe” and brought the actor Pyotr Sadovnikov a prize for the best male role. The urban drama returned Davydov’s faith in himself.
In 2020, the Yakut director managed to shoot two more films, which are still preparing to be released on screens. One of them he made together with Stepan Burnashev ( “The Asterisk War Season 3” and “Black Snow” ), he also edited “Scarecrow”. This year Davydov has three projects according to the plan. He has already shot one, and the other two are preparing for filming. After the Sochi success, producers came to him and financial support was no longer at the regional level.
In January 2021, Davydov left school and chose cinema. But he does not plan to move either to Moscow or even to Yakutsk. And why? He knows his native places, people, nature and life very well. Cinema with a hundred million dollar budgets does not interest him. Indeed, for Davydov, films are a way to reveal himself as an author. He is interested in general human topics, small stories about the most important things.