(director/writer: Péter Kerekes; screenwriter: Ivan Ostrochovský/story by Ostrochovský; cinematographer: Martin Kollár; editor: Marin Piga/Thomas Ernst; music: Lucia Chutkova; cast: Maryna Klimova ( Leysa), Iryna Kiryazeva (Operational Officer), Riasa Roman (Iryna’s mother); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Ivan Ostrochovský: Endor Film; 2021-Slovakia/Czech Republic/Ukraine-in Russian and Ukrainian with English subtitles)

“Unfortunately the mix of fiction and documentary doesn’t cohere and the film falters.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

107 Mothers is the
Slovakian Oscar entry.

A bleak experimental pic set in one of Odessa’s correctional facilities for women, that’s well-researched and took over five years to film (400 real prisoners were interviewed). It’s written and directed by the prize-winning Czechoslovakian filmmaker Péter Kerekes  (“Velvet Terrorists”/”Cooking History”) and co-written by Ivan Ostrochovský from his story. It blends together real-life cases with fiction. Unfortunately the mix of fiction and documentary doesn’t cohere and the film falters.

Lesya (Maryna Klimova, professional actress) has just given birth in prison to her first child. Because she committed a crime of passion, murdering her husband over a matter of jealousy, she gets a seven-year sentence in an Odessa women’s correctional facilities.

The women prisoners can keep their child for just three years before they must go to either an orphanage or be adopted.

The gist of the film has the single operational officer (Iryna Kiryazeva), who censors the mail of the prisoners and is pining to be a mom, conduct interviews in a private room with the prisoners. Prison life is filled with carrying out the tedious daily routines, and the knowledge that privacy doesn’t exist in prison.

The film morphs into being a tale about motherhood and why it could be a saving grace for the prisoners. There’s also a moving interview Iryna has with her mother (Riasa Roman, Yiddish theater actress from Odessa)

Though well-crafted it wasn’t very entertaining or enlightening.

It premiered at the Venice International Festival.

REVIEWED ON 10/28/2021  GRADE: C+