Ukrainian-Canadian filmmaker, Deco Dawson shot Diaspora‘s footage three years before Russia forced Ukrainians to flee their homeland in search of safer countries. The film’s release however, is very timely in 2022.
Winnipeg’s North End. Where the lingua franca is beer.
Diaspora takes place mainly along Selkirk Avenue in a rundown, multicultural part of Winnipeg. Eva (Yuliia Guzhva) is a new arrival in town, and only speaks Ukrainian. It seems that every new person she encounters speaks Spanish, Turkish, German, Polish…basically anything other than her native tongue. The North End doesn’t seem to even have much English going for it other than the signage of boarded up storefronts.
Though it is a snapshot of a dying area, it is also a study of loneliness. Walking past empty buildings and chipped, faded murals, Eva is often the only pedestrian. The cinematography juxtaposes her figure with long street views and old architecture. It is not shot in widescreen format, but the horizontal stretches of urban decay give the illusion of distance and depth, and this enhances the feelings of solitude.
Eva hits dead end after dead end while trying to find some comfort and to ease her alienation. When she finds a job, it is in a very large factory. With its many rooms and employees, one would expect our heroine to find ways to integrate her new environment. Instead, it only amplifies her insignificance. This may all sound terribly dismal, but in fact Diaspora is woven with subtle threads of humor. Not a laugh-fest for sure, but there is a kind of lingering irony throughout Frustrating misunderstandings occur, even over beers in a party atmosphere, but they tend to bring a smile to the viewer’s face.
As an aside, many of the buildings in the film have since been demolished. In this way, Dawson has created a kind of time capsule of a Selkirk Avenue that is now probably totally different, yet still comically the same.
Diaspora – October 10th, 2022 at 1 PM.
https://nouveaucinema.ca/ for location and ticketing details.