Cyrus Pundole reviews a road movie documentary that lives both in the present and the early 20th Century
Eastern Memories (CFF 15)
This is a movie that is quite unique, and that's often the way with better documentaries – a vibrant part of current cinema.
But this is a travelogue from the past (and the present), as much as a documentary. We see huge open landscapes in Mongolia, a quiet life that changes very slowly; the bustle of Japan; a brief visual visit to China and South Korea. But the narration is from the words of Finnish diplomat GJ Ramstedt, who served his nation (then newly independent from Russia) in these countries in the early part of the 20th Century.
His thoughts on the changing political times in these countries, local princes deprived of knowledge from far away lands and much more, are mixed with comments from contemporary ordinary folk in Mongolia and Japan, from living in high-rise box apartments, to foreign investment.
Time seems to slow down, whether we're in the past, or near to the present. Eastern Memories is an enjoyable ride across landscapes that rarely show up on BBC4, putting the viewer into another time and place.