Manchester Lift-Off 2017: The Botanist

Deep in the mountainous region of Pamir, Tajikistan lives Raimberdi, the focus of this fascinating documentary short. After the fall of the Soviet Union, famine spreads, and inevitably so does war. Raimberdi must learn to survive in his isolated village. Luckily he is both an accomplished botanist and a genius inventor.

Initially their family was very poor, ‘we didn’t even have a goat’ he remarked. But slowly, we learn of the incredible resourcefulness and creativity he employs to improve their day-to-day life. Out of whatever scraps he could find he builds a basic hydroelectric station, and when visitors came to the village, he paid them to build him a small reservoir to make the entire process of generating electricity much more efficient. Whilst all around him burned kerosene lamps, he had electricity.

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It is not enough to just have an intriguing subject, the direction and cinematography have to also be of the same calibre. In this respect, the directors Maude and Maxime have really excelled in crafting a well-rounded short. Its narrative was split into several parts, each separated by an animation showing a different plant from the area, accompanied by its latin name. For such a small, and for the purpose of the narrative, irrelevant detail it adds another dimension, one that helps to make The Botanist a standout film in the genre.

Over time Raimberdi has become able to live very comfortably, with luxuries that those around him cannot afford. He can even tell us about Obama’s recent visit to Japan from his own personal radio. Despite all of this, and especially in this unforgiving terrain, community is key. He contributes by teaching at the local school long after his retirement age in order to help the next generation. A shot of him walking to school with his grandson reinforces the truly solitary environment in which he lives. Not one to be disheartened by life, he instead thrives upon its challenges. ‘Sometimes life forces you to do some things’

Out of all the documentary shorts, this was in my opinion of the highest standard and I heartily recommend it for its portrayal of ingenuity in the face of great adversity

Directed by Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis

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