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Award-Winning Russian Short Asks the Big Questions

By: for ISKCON News on Nov. 26, 2015

Lead actor Evgeniy Kovalenko, as Danny, chants his heart out

Forget to Remember, the new transformational short film from young Russian director Shaktyavesha Avatar Das, is now available online with English subtitles.

The 36-minute Russian language short won second place at the viewer-voted Moscow film festival “I See God,” which is dedicated to work that explores different understandings of God.

The film tells the story of Danny, a young Russian man who is pursuing a career in music, despite pressure from his father to continue the family business. But when he is attacked after a performance in Moscow, he loses his memory, not even able to remember his own name.

Getting help from Hare Krishna devotees when he stumbles across a Food For Life truck serving out free food, he begins to realize that his tragedy could be a blessing in disguise as he gets to ask deep questions like “Who am I?” and “Where do I come from?” with a blank slate.

Danny ends up going to a kirtan program led by The Voice contestant Pierre Edel (Premamaya Vasudeva Das), who plays himself in a heartfelt and mystical chanting scene.

“Mantra  is not a concert, where artists sing for for the public,” Edel says. “It’s when we all sing together for God in essence… and anybody can join, if he really wants to. You don’t have to be a professional singer, or have a beautiful voice, or anything like that. It’s all about sharing the happiness that comes from kirtan and mantra.”

Connecting to the mantra, Danny begins leading kirtan himself, and finds a way to discover peace and meaning while engaging his musical talent.

Like Shaktyavesha Avatar’s previous film Long Lost, Forget to Remember is subtle about its Krishna conscious message, attempting to show the beauty of kirtan without being too preachy.

“I wanted to allow people to naturally evolve along with the film and to come to their own conclusions,” says Shaktyavesha.

 And like Long Lost, the new film has an ambiguous ending that allows audiences to decide what direction they think the main character took.

Shaktyavesha Avatar (in checked shirt) directs a scene

All this is absorbing and believable in the hands of a cast that, while relatively new to acting, turn in convincing and professional performances. Evgeniy Kovalenko, who plays Danny, previously appeared in commercials. Svasti Das, who appears as Danny’s father, is an established satirical comedian on Russian television. And Ekaterina Kuzmina, as a Food For Life server who helps Danny on his journey, is a model who is married to popular rock musician Vladimir Kuzmin and recently began to practice Krishna consciousness.

Forget to Remember’s crew is a skilled one too. Writer-director Shaktyavesha Avatar Das – who also received an “I See God” award for Long Lost -- got his Master’s Degree in film production at the Royal Holloway University of London. And Director of Photography Dhira Krishna Das worked at Mayapur-based film studio Kriyate, and co-created the visually stunning Mayapur: Entrance into Eternity.

“Forget to Remember took four months of pre and post-production, including ten days of shooting at locations in Moscow,” says Shaktyavesha Avatar. “Sometimes it was challenging, and seemed like Krishna was sending every possible impediment to purify our hearts. And sometimes there was miracle after miracle as doors opened and things came together like a jigsaw puzzle. For instance, there were many expensive Moscow locations that were just given to us for free, like the Latuk restaurant, China Town club, and concert venue Yotaspace.”

Forget to Remember premiered on June 7th at a concert hall next to ISKCON Moscow, and was offered to presiding Deities Sri Sri Doyal Nitai Saci Suta for their Brahmotsava ceremony. It was also screened at the Sadhu Sanga festival on the Black Sea, which was attended by over 5,000 devotees, and received an enthusiastic response.

Next, Shaktyavesha Avatar is hoping to enter the film into international fim festivals.

“For me, this film is about removing everything that blocks the Holy Name, and just opening your heart to it,” he says. “So, if by Krishna’s will, a person watches it and feels inspired to do more chanting, that would be the biggest reward for us.”

Please watch the film for free here: http://forget-to-remember.com/

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[ film ] [ russia_1 ] [ shakthyavesa-avatara ]
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