The unlicensed fisherman of Ostrov, an island in the Caspian Sea, often see themselves against the world. Left to their own devices after the breakup of the Soviet Union, local patriarch Ivan cannot help but think that Putin will see their struggle and help. Theirs is a difficult and dangerous livelihood – every trip into the ocean could be their last. But the joys and struggles of family and a fiercely nationalist pride sustain the diverse inhabitants of Ostrov.

Ostrov – Lost Island centres around Ivan and the fishing expeditions he leads from an unnervingly small boat. Directors Svetlana Rodina and Laurent Stoop, however, spend ample time with Ivan’s family and fellow community members, sitting with them as they share meals, tell their stories, and celebrate small victories. Over the course of a year they show World War II memorial services, funerals, a young couple on uncertain grounds, and the Moscow New Year’s Eve speeches dutifully watched from island televisions. While the documentary itself runs only eighty minutes, the material is never rushed. The many segments play as an anthology, cutting straight to the heart of one person’s dreams or another’s struggles through their candid confessions and unselfconscious, unapologetic routines.

At the end it is revealed that the island received a hospital, fishing warehouse, and nationalised protections the year after filming. Ivan’s faith feels well-placed, and it is hard not feeling relieved for this defiant, indefeasible community who generously and eloquently share their world. By framing this as a footnote rather than a result, Rodina and Stroop celebrate the island’s autonomy and dignity.

Ostrov – Lost Island is lovingly compiled and carefully authored. Instead of contextualising the island’s economic and political limbo within larger regional and international politics, the documentary places paramount importance on Ivan and company’s beliefs, challenges, and their fight for recognition.



DIRECTORS: Svetlana Rodina, Laurent Stoop

WRITERS: Svetlana Rodina, Laurent Stoop

SYNOPSIS: On the island of Ostrov in the Caspian Sea, the inhabitants, left alone by the Russian state after the collapse of the Soviet Union, survive through poaching.