Director Alan Nurthen about Zabaikal Cossacks Documentary

As the writer, producer and director of two international hit documentaries, I was invited to the premiere screening of the Simeon Boikov feature-length documentary, Zabaikal Cossacks.

 The very nature of documentary filmmaking means that the film either succeeds or fails on the strength of its interview subjects – and the interviewees in Simeon’s film were outstanding. Their stories were poignant, heartfelt, moving, and at times very humorous.

 The only quibble I have regarding the film’s content and structure, is that it could have included more archival footage detailing the history of the Cossacks and their struggles. The stock footage used in the film was highly instructive, and like all historical footage, added immensely to the finished product.

 The Chinese incursion into Cossack occupied territory in 1927 was not covered in the film, and in my humble opinion, would have added more to my understanding of the Cossacks and their colourful history.

Still, having said that, there is only so much information that you can fit into a documentary, and Simeon’s storytelling was compelling enough to excuse the ommision.

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 The screening itself was a golden opportunity to mingle with the Russian Cossacks and to observe their amazingly ornate uniforms and costumes.

I have had the pleasure of being married to a Cossack woman for the past twenty years: So in that respect, I have a far greater insight into the culture than the vast majority of my fellow Australians.

The VIP premiere screening of Zabaikal Cossacks was a fun and interesting evening.I highly recommend the film and I sincerely hope it finds a wide audience, as it has a very interesting story to tell.

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 There are many other fascinating story possibilities regarding the Russian Cossacks in Australia.Our connection with Russia goes back to 1807, when the first Russian sailing ships were given berth at what is now Neutral Bay, in Sydney.Russian’s have contributed a great deal to Australian culture and society, winning more AOM’s and other Orders of Merit than any other nationality – including Australians.

Alan Nurthen

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