Between 1986 and 1990, Arthur Aristakisian lived among the tramps and beggars of Kishinov, the Moldavian capital, studying them and empathising with their plight. This documentary follows a series of case studies—all disadvantaged in some way—as they go about their daily business of struggling to eke out an existence in a cruel and hostile world. Aristakisian takes a philosophical, almost spiritual, view of his subjects (he uses the analogy of an aborted foetus to imply rejection and removal from society, a direct reference to a painful chapter in his own life). But, by way of rationalising, he likens them to Christ and his disciples, whose outsider status was part of their uniqueness. Aristakisian’s sensitive narration is that of a father intoning truths to his unborn child, while the monochrome photography perfectly captures the former Soviet city in all its desolate glory. —Second Run
A great film director born in Kishinev, Moldova. His film “Palms” about the life of destitute and homeless people in Kishinev, filmed in 1993 won several awards at international film festivals. For his second film, Mesto Na Zemle, Aristakisyan lived as a homeless person in Moscow for 5 years. —thisislike.com
It burns into you. It is deeply sad yet lionises its subjects. The images of black and white streets and homes of trash stick in the mind, while the continuous narration avoids becoming didactic by becoming an interrogation of the narrator's own mind. It doesn't matter if its a documentary, reaching ideas on life through the director simply looking at the world around him and creating something legitimately profound.