A feature documentary in the making, Saving North provides a dialogue between the insular Russian North and the world regarding adopting and restoring historic wooden monuments. Featured are fascinating human relationships that develop between representatives of East and West to revitalize rural communities abandoned during twentieth century industrialization.
Wood is plentiful in the Russian North, and is a living, animate material used to create incredibly intricate churches, windmills, and other structures for centuries. However, it has often been considered “lower caste” than stone or masonry, and the oldest and finest structures and their liturgical art are gradually disappearing from neglect and bureaucratic obstacles to preservation.
The film explores the work of architect Alexander Popov who is realizing his ambition to preserve and share with the world the beauty and value of these ancient structures, discovering and reinvigorating both the historic tools and the processes that brought them to life. Popov meets and becomes friends with the noted British architecture photographer Richard Davies who spent 10 years traveling the Russian north in search of these "disappearing" churches for his acclaimed book of photos and essays, Wooden Churches: Traveling in the Russian North. Together, Davies and Popov uncover the circumstances that led to the churches being demolished or falling to decay. They are also joined by a small but passionate group of Russian people from all walks of life who work together to preserve the beautiful and touching cultural monuments.
Very few encounters between European colonists and Native Americans could be considered to have benefitted the Native population, either directly or indirectly. Yet a relationship that began over 200 years ago between the Kashia Pomo of the Northern California coast and Russian settlers who founded Fort Ross has recently been revived. These renewed encounters have not only contributed to the tribe’s return to its ancient lands, but also coincided with a renaissance in the cultural traditions of its people.
Coming Round is an international story set on two continents with twists and turns spanning two hundred years, and continues today. The film weaves the 21st century rekindling of the tribe’s unique bond with Russia with the history of the Kashia and their relationship to the land, located on the California coast, which they occupied for over 12,000 years.
The film will use present day scenes, footage and interviews shot/to be shot in California and Russia, archival material, illustrations, images, newspaper articles, written Kashia accounts of the Russians from “Kashia Texts”, journals of Russian settlers, family lore from tribal members, and observations from historians and archeologists from the Kashia, California and Russia to tell this previously untold story. Some parts of the film will be narrated by the Kashia in their native language. Through the five years (2012-17) of shooting to date we have been able to capture key current events and moments that will contribute to the film.
UPDATE: In April 2019, this project received a production grant from the California Humanities & National Endowment for the Humanities. More details here.