Articles & Notes, REVIEWS: Docs / Other films — November 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm

The Highly Skilled Migrants on a Nonsense Express

The title of the article might sound strange at first, especially if you’re not really into music. “The Highly Skilled Migrants” is a British band, the singer of which, is a London-based guitar player, poet Sasha Ilyukevich.

Ilyukevich is originally from Belarus, which he believes, continues to struggle from repression, even though it is not a part of Soviet Union anymore.

Sasha sings in Russian, his lyrics play on images from Eastern Slavic Folklore and Russian Literature. The songs are originally composed, they are provocative, bizarre at times, yet intelligent and romantic.

Residing in London, Ilyukevich and his band’s music stands against the repressions and comdemns them. This is one of those rare power pop bands who transcend their inspirations to create powerful and original music of their own, dubbed ‘Belarusian Rock ’n’ Roll’.

The Rob Dumas directed documentary on the band’s trip to Russia and Belarus for gigs, has probably one of the most fitting titles ever – “The Nonsense Express”.

The film follows the band (Sasha, Ned – bassist, Phil – drummer, Marianne – flute player) on their journey from London to Moscow, and then to Belarus.

While the band is excited to perform in front of the audience they desperately seek, it is obvious that not all music fans would appreciate the rebellious songs.

The documentary follows “The Highly Skilled Migrants” on their path to performing in Moscow’s clubs, and at the beginning it seems like things do not go as planned. After all, the band is not the first one trying to get its big break.

While the film suggests there is a political undertone with the way Belarus is currently being ruled, the documentary does not concentrate on that, for all the right reasons. Besides, it would have been too much to fit into a 37-minute documentary.

“The Highly Skilled Migrants” are interesting to watch. They all look like hippies, however all behave differently. Sasha is excited to “give it all he’s got” and is determined to achieve success. The rest of the band study both Moscow and Belarus with interest, yet sometimes you can see “despair”, “sadness” and “we should’ve stayed in London” written all over their faces.

In the end however, the band manages to land quite an interesting gig, which will not be spoiled here. And yet, while the “Nonsense Express” did not seem to be like a very successful move gigs wise, it did give the band some food for thoughts, and new experiences.

The film creatively combines HD footage and animated hand-drawn ink illustrations. Shot in June of 2012, “The Nonsense Express” has been hitting numerous film festivals in the U.S. and UK, with “The Highly Skilled Migrants” performing a gig, after each screening.



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