«The Gulls»


«Only the wind, sand, reeds and the desire to live no worse than others…» — these words served as the basis for creating this story’s atmosphere, and they are incredibly accurate in determining the real world of these places today.

The Gulls is a parable set against the background of modern Kalmykia. It is about love, where the characters intuitively carry out forgotten traditions. Love in silence, mourn without crying… The Gulls are the souls of the dead fishermen, broken canoes … hope.

The Gulls
Release Date 2015
Genre drama
Running time 87 minutes
Production Telesto production company with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture
Screenplay Ella Manzheeva
Director Ella Manzheeva
Director of Photography Alexander Kuznetsov
Art Director Denis Bauer
Composer Anton Silaev
Producers Elena Glikman,
Iaroslav Jivov
Starring Evgeniya Mandzhieva,
Sergei Adianov,
Evgeniy Sangadzhiev,
Liubov Ubushieva and others.
press kit

Elsa, a fisherman’s wife, lives in a seaside town in Kalmykia. She wants to leave her husband, but doesn’t dare do so for fear of the unknown.
However, Elsa’s husband dies. Her husband’s death forces the heroine to reflect and reconsider her views on life, happiness, freedom …




Set photos

Film test


Ella Manzheeva, director

We often associate our troubles and failures with the people around us. By shifting the responsibility over to them, we justify our weakness, laziness, lack of willpower and thought. Happiness, however, lies within each one of us, and we alone bring ourselves to live and be happy; be daring and free or even unhappy.

This film is about the energy of life. Stop. Listen. Hear yourself, and you will hear others around you. When time and space unite, there appears an incredible happiness and freedom- the freedom of the soul. I would like the viewers to trust themselves somewhat more through relying on their own unique experience and character, so that that the film’s drama lives on in their minds, and everyone was able to establish their own finale, take from it their own subjective moral lessons. I am not trying to convey a particular message by creating this story — I simply ask a question. And may everyone answer it in their own way.

Elena Glikman, producer

This is the first Kalmyk film in the last 30 years to be shot by a Kalmyk director in Kalmykia. That is precisely why participating in international festivals is extremely important to us, particularly ones as prestigious as the Berlinale.

Kalmykia is a only small region of the vast Russian country. Here live a people with their own unique culture, traditions, history and language. Unfortunately, the lives of the various people that make up our country rarely make it onto the screen. While one film will do little to change this, we would like to make the first step.

Thankfully, Kalmykia is currently experiencing an active revival of the Kalmyk language, which was on the verge of extinction as a consequence of Stalin's repressions. We believe that The Gulls, whose heroes haven’t forgotten their native language, will raise interest to both the Kalmyk culture and the language and help in its revival. We are also really glad to provide viewers with the opportunity to see the boundlessness of the stunning Kalmyk steppes and just how beautiful the people of these steppes really are.

Alexander Kuznetsov, сinematographer

The Gulls is a very special film in my life, and not simply because my wife directed — the ideas it touches upon are close to me personally, and I truly hope they will affect the viewers just as much.

There are a lot of layers and themes to the movie: the story of a woman and her fate, the husband’s criminal past; the main one, however, is the story of her inner liberation.

When discussing the film’s visual concept, we decided that the camera should be as close to the heroine as possible in order to feel and convey Elsa’s deepest experiences. This required a certain angle and distance between the camera and the actress; sometimes the camera moves alongside Elsa at her own rhythm, sometimes it freezes up, just like Elsa, and then suddenly it rushes off in a failed attempt to contain itself.

The moment when I fully understood my role as the cinematographer was when our casting director Volodya Golov said that «we need to film Kalmykia so that it looks as beautiful as Zheniya».

Natural elements play a large part in the film — on the one hand, we wanted to use the wind and fog, the water and ice, even the frozen ground, to convey the heroin’s emotional state, so that the viewers feel her pain and sufferings; on the other hand, the elements are a sign of fate’s constant presence, silently leading us on our way.

Regardless of whether we were filming interiors or specks of sand sparkling in the sun, the stifling fumes from the cooking dinner or the acute and merciless sun, the oppressive winter light — everywhere, the foreground of the frame is taken up by Elsa’s subjective world. A personal challenge I faced as the cinematographer was having to provide for freely moving and rotating the camera 360 degrees in nearly all the interiors. In order to do so, we set up the lighting outside of the rooms, with only the camera and actors inside — this gave them and the director freedom in the mise-en-scene, contributing to a more intimate and realistic frame. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The colour of our film is somewhat muffled, hidden, while the various colour combinations aren’t quite familiar to European eyes. When planning the film’s colours, we heavily relied on the colour palette of a Buddhist temple, realising that it can be seen everywhere in Kalmykia — both in the streets of Elista, and in the two villages where the film’s main action takes place.

Evgeniya Mandzhieva, аctress

The Gulls appeared in my life unexpectedly. I had always wanted to peek into the world of film, when suddenly the door sprang wide open for me; I went in, unhesitatingly. This was my debut, prior to which I had nothing at all connecting me with cinema.

Eighteen months ago, I received a Facebook message from Vladimir Golova, a casting director. It read: ‘Good evening, Evgeniya. My name is Vladimir and I am the casting director of Ella Manzheeva’s The Gulls — this is her feature film debut. We would like to invite you for a casting. Please call me …'

I didn’t know Ella at the time, but the surname was clearly Kalmyk — one of my own :) I was interested, and so I called.

Every day from then on the surrounding circumstances changed me little by little, forming part of a new identity. I'm not talking about the shooting itself — I'm talking about life. I discovered something new to myself, and grew as a person. The experience was truly extraordinary — I’m not a professional actress and I was scared, scared to let other people down. But, in the end, it was this very fear and experience that made me stronger and overpowered my form, the form I had become so accustomed to through the 28 years of my life. The feeling was strange to me, but I felt as if I was moving somewhere, as if I hadn’t quite turned into a stone yet. I was truly alive in that moment, and I was happy.

This incredible experience started a new vector in my career and currently I am studying acting at the Moscow School of Cinema (under the tutelage of Ingeborga Dapkunayte). A new step for me, and a new stage in my life.

I am extremely happy and proud for Ella, and truly overjoyed that The Gulls are flying to the Berlin Film Festival. What makes me even happier, however, is having met such a beautiful, talented and interesting woman.

Film on festivals


Berlin International Film Festival

Midnight Sun Film Festival (Finland)

Open Russian Film Festival «Kinotavr»
Prize «For Best Debut»

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

European Film Festival, Palic
Award «For Best Film» (Parallels and Encounters program)

Fünf Seen Filmfestival, Germany
Award «For Best script»

Sakhalin International Film Festival «On the Edge»

Yakutsk International Film Festival

International Film Festival «Film by the Sea», Netherlands

International Film Festival of Asian-Pacific countries in Vladivostok «Pacific Meridian»

Open Film Festival «Kinoshock»

Haifa International Film Festival

International Film Festival «LET’S CEE», Vienna

Warsaw International Film Festival

Sao Paulo International Film Festival «Mostra», Brasil

AFI Los Angeles Film Festival «AFI Fest», USA

International Film Festival «Black Nights», Tallinn

Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival

St.Petersburg International Festival of Debut and Student Films BEGINNING
Special Jury mention «Best Director’s Work»

International Film Festival STALKER
Special award by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia


Cyprus Film Days International Film Festival
Best Film Award