Set in the snow-capped Urals, this multi-genre anthology reveals the lives and traditions of Russia’s indigenous Mari people through stories of 23 women.
The Mari, a Finno-Ugric people that live along the northern bank of the river Volga, are considered to be Europe’s last pagans. Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari, the award-winning ethnofiction film by director Aleksei Fedorchenko, paints a beguiling picture of a culture driven by the ritualistic appreciation of female beauty. The script, written by Denis Osokin, is divided into 23 novellas, each focused on a woman whose name starts with the letter “O”. Through these short chapters, each different in terms of tone and visuals, Fedorchenko creates a vivid portrait of the diversity of Mari people and the idiosyncrasies of their culture.
Shot in their native language, the film features local Mari people as actors. However, the film is by no means an anthropological study, as fantasy and witchery interweave with local traditions in a colourful interplay between magic and reality. Described as a “Mari Decameron”, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari is a captivating example of a local female reality that transcends language barriers and cultural borders, and proves to be universally relatable.