“A Quiet Outpost” – 2016 Pyongyang Film Review

A 2011 work from Russia kicked off the biennial Pyongyang International Film Festival shortly after the opening ceremony festivities at Central Youth Hall.  “A Quiet Outpost” (marketed at the festival in English as “Frontier Post “Serene”” and also known in Russian as “Tikhaia zastava”) had the opportunity to re-introduce the story of Russian soldiers guarding the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border of the early post-USSR ‘90s to a new audience.

a-quiet-outpost-posterWhile it does manage to sustain interest for its 90-minute duration, the impact of its story is a bit lost due to a bloated narrative.  The film could even have been cut by about 30 minutes, or perhaps replaced with some more historical context.  Its uneven pacing – particularly when switching from comedic moments to tense confrontations, and vice versa – results in a confused tone.  Attempts at character development try to establish a sense of camaraderie among the Russian comrades, but the mechanical way in which this information is presented makes it difficult for the viewer to care.

This is a shame because the people become caricatures.  In one case, a bland female love interest enters the picture between the devoted border post head soldier (Pankov, played by Andrei Chadov) and an Islamic bandit, Faizullo (Faridunsho Rakhmatulloyev), who leads a group of Mujahideen fighters trying to break in.  But this decision to insert an additional non-political angle in the main conflict backfires, particularly when it is clear that the woman is merely a disposable character.  The same can be said for the rest of the cast, which is unfortunate because this overshadows some otherwise solidly realistic – although overdone at times – battle scenes.

“A Quiet Outpost” (“Frontier Post “Serene””) opened the 2016 Pyongyang International Film Festival.  It will screen twice on Sep. 22 (10 a.m. at the Taedongmun Cinema Hall No. 1 and 6 p.m. at the Thongilgori Cinema), and once on Sep. 23 (2 p.m. at the Mirae Scientists’ Street Cinema).