Braguino ★★★½

A fascinating if not fully formed exercise that upends notions of rural idylls, Cogitore’s mid-length documentary captures impressions of a contemporary Hatfield and McCoy feud set in isolated Siberia. Filmed in the remote Russian taiga, the striking beauty on display here soon gives way to an overwhelming sense of paranoia and largely self-imposed social injustice. This results in a work that is at once uniquely captivating in its subject matter and somewhat frustrating because Cogitore’s ethnographic inquiries are frequently thwarted by his poetry. Certainly he manages a few shocking editorial juxtapositions (e.g. a graphic bear hunt is followed up by a scene showing the bear’s feet refashioned into a small child’s slippers), yet the sensation that shock value might be the aim never quite dissipates. The Kiline family, enemy of the Braguine clan whose perspective dominates the film, is largely presented as a structuring absence that nonetheless dictates their way of life. Brief glimpses of them only raise questions, which might well have been purposely unanswered so that Cogitore’s allegory of man’s adversarial nature can flourish.

A squandered opportunity, perhaps, yet gifted with enough unshakably raw images that it remains essential all the same…