A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Graeme Hobbs

Perhaps surprisingly for a film populated almost entirely with beggars, Palms has nothing to do with charity. Its real subject is proximity. In its relentless depiction of life at the margins and with its discomfiting jabs of authenticity, it is an affront to personal space. Why should this be so?

Part of the answer comes in a quote from John Berger’s essay Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible, in which, considering the current omnipresence and elusiveness of images, he describes the system outside of which the people in Palms exist. What are depicted, he says, “used to be called physical appearances because they belonged to solid bodies. Now appearances are volatile. Technological innovation has made it easy to separate the apparent from the existent. And this is precisely what the present system’s mythology continually needs to exploit. It turns appearances into refractions, like mirages: refractions not of light but of appetite, in fact a single appetite, the appetite for more.”1

In contrast to these fugitive appearances, there is no doubt that in Palms we are in the company of solid bodies, maimed and damaged bodies even, not seeking our attention or intervention, utterly indifferent to us at our safe distance, yet completely present. They feed no appetite, create no wealth, yet still they stubbornly exist, heavy with the affront of parasitic life.

One of the usual lures of cinema is the attraction of journeying in safety to places and with people you would not otherwise meet. Palms presents you with no seductive journeys. It does not care about you and it does not indulge you. It leaves you with nowhere to go except back on yourself, making you keenly aware of your own reaction – your disgust, your righteousness, your shame, the boundaries of your love. Watching Palms, you are no longer the centre of the world. How can you incorporate this place and its people? At times, the film even looks like it comes from another century. The flashes of modern clothing and accessories – a leather jacket, a handbag, a pushchair – belonging to people in the streets, seem incongruous.

In his words, with Palms, Aristakisyan presents a film of outsiders objectionable to the system. What makes them so? An answer comes at the beginning of Part Two with the epileptics, of whom he says that they “proved to be objectionable because they didn’t need to go anywhere. They were at the border between worlds and could see clearly.” It is this lack of need, this appetite only for necessities, that is objectionable.

Graeme Hobbs' complete Essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the Booklet of the DVD release.


A short excerpt from the Booklet essay

DVD Reviews

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DVD Beaver
DVD Times

Film Reviews

Time Out


(i) A profile of Artur Aristakisyan by Roger Clarke

(ii) Artur Aristakisyan’s films Kino Kino
Lost Film Bargains


1994 NIKA (Russian ‘Oscar’) / Best Documentary Film
1994 Berlin Film Festival / Forum Grand Prix & Wolfgang Staudte Prize
1994 San Francisco Film Festival / Satyajit Ray Prize
1994 Taormina Film Festival / Prize for Contribution to Cinema Language
1994 Karlovy Vary Film Festival / Ecumenical Jury Prize
1994 Munich Film Festival / Special Jury Prize

Disc Info

Palms Boxshot

Russia 1993
Length / Main Feature: 139 minutes
Length / Special Feature: 20 minutes
Sound: Original mono (restored)
Black & White 1.33:1 full frame
Language: Russian
Subtitles: English On/Off
PAL R0  RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 27th August 2007
Second Run DVD 026


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