Unclenching the Fists

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Set in the small town of Mizur in North Ossetia (Russia), Unclenching the Fists is the story of Ada, a young woman who lives with her overprotective father and loving brother. It is a gripping drama that explores topics of trauma, family relations and the cost of personal freedom. 

Mizur is a small mining town in northern Ossetia, in the Russian part of the Caucasus. For Ada, a young woman who lives with her father Zaur and her brother Dakko, life feels limiting: beyond her job at a small grocery store and the occasional ride with her brother, she is mostly confined at home by her controlling father - for reasons we also discover as the story unfolds. She waits anxiously for the older brother, Akim, to return home, to get a glimpse of his freedom, and maybe escape her life of few prospects. 

With Unclending the Fists, director Kira Kovalenko signs a strong and mature film with a complex female lead at its center. Herself from a nearby city in the Caucasus and working with several non-actors, Kovalenko draws a raw and tender portrait of the youth of North Ossetia. She shows the burdens they bear from past traumas, their deep longing for life, and complex family dynamics. The film was chosen as Russia's entry to the Best International Feature Film category at the Academy Awards in 2022. 


Kira Kovalenko was born in Nalchik, in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic of Russia. She graduated from Alexander Sokurov’s directing workshop at the Kabardino-Balkarian State University in 2015. Kovalenko made her directorial debut in 2016 with Sofichka, which premiered at the Tallinn International Film Festival. Unclenching The Fists is her second feature film.


2016 Sofichka

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