3OHA’s overarching narrative theme is based in Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. The film explores this as a critique of consumer culture and how that culture weaves with our memories of historical events to form an apparatus of control. As these events separate from the moment in which they’ve occurred, they become memory, they merge into image, product, and iconography to form simulacra - or: empty symbols that no longer contain their original meaning but are now full of emotion. The perfect example of this is Swan Lake. At random, the government broadcast the most classic Russian ballet across all T.V. channels during the coup in ’91 rather than the usual emergency tone. For those who experienced that moment in history, Swan Lake will always be linked to something more complicated and traumatic. This memory was passed on to children, these children may or may not have lived through these events themselves depending on age, but their parents have taken them to see Swan Lake, have told them the story of the Coup, and these parents still jump up to check the T.V. channels if they think they hear the first notes of Swan Lake to make sure another Coup isn’t about to happen. This is one example from the film. Other simulacrum in the film are McDonalds, Nike, Instagram culture via self-portrait, and this overall want to become an image more than a person. Or a simulacra more than a person. A copy of yourself. Your ideal self. This is exhibited most clearly within the story of Vladimir (August, Nina, and Dasha).
As a basis, the e-Bay seller establishes the concept of fake vs. real. The shoes themselves are fake, but upon inspection they pass for real. Who’s to say they aren’t? Through the hierarchies of commercial production, our e-Bay seller is able to verify through a code that the exact model will match an image through google. To the purchaser, this is enough to convince them they are purchasing something real. But, it isn’t. The seller puts the fake shoes in a box with the correct number, the number matches an image on the internet that matches the shoe in real life. This is stage 1 of Simulacra and Simulation.
In the visual style of the film I tried to work with the language of this control apparatus. Our hopes and dreams in a pair of Levi's - vessels that are used to manipulate a deep connection because their only value is the emotional value we place on them. Otherwise they’re empty. Levi’s, Nikes, McDonalds, Coca-Cola; all represented western prosperity, freedom, the green grass on the other side of the fence before 1991. Decades later, these products have all been coded into a highly complicated language of symbols, and in this language the sovereign power (through the means of production and constant rewriting of history) has absolute control. There is no difference between East and West in this sense. Husky, the central voice of the film, understands this inherently. He speaks to a common youth perspective that is at once free-thinking but anti-globalist.
With that language set, I wanted to capture our narrative in a variety of formats and aesthetics that could blur between then and now, real and fake. Like modern hieroglyphs sketched out through raw data and digital icons, that are then activated by subjective memories of the past. Images that speak the way we speak now. The feeling of wanting to be an image in the aesthetic sense that matches who you are deep inside your person before you become pure simulacra. I think that language is across the entire film from pixelated video footage of clubs in the 90s, to “scenes from a teen movie” like Rostok and Yulya standing at a fence talking about if they’ll be friends when they get older. All of these tropes play out in film and in real life. Who’s to say which happened first.
Where this leaves us is the concept of 3OHA (Zona). This term has a very complicated meaning. Within Russia, to most people, Zona means prison. Where you are locked up and punished for crimes. In the literary sense, Zona is a concept taken from Roadside Picnic, which is a sci-fi novel written by the Strugatsky brothers about the aftermath of an alien-landing where people known as “stalkers" would go into the landing zones to retrieve alien objects of great power and significance, and sell them to people outside of “the Zone”. In the sense of my film 3OHA, the Zone has come represent the thin vapor of consumer culture that allows people to live a fantasy of their own life and to eventually become a full simulacra as they simulate different versions of themselves until the original no longer exists.
In short, a friend also described the film this way: “The way the film is pieced together, and how abstract it is, is like a huge myriad of black market purchases, bootleg products, and second hand information, all stirring in a country of hear-say and rumour that then transitions into something incredibly poignant and insightful about how we’re all living today."