Berlin & Beyond Film Festival 2010: The Woman With The 5 Elephants – Review & Trailer

For most people, I would imagine translating enormous verbose texts word-by-word and line-by-line would prove to be a painstakingly tedious process, but for 87-year-old Swetlana, translating has not only been her saving grace from childhood, but her joy as well.

With aptly timed quotes and life ponders from its main subject, director, Vadim Jendreyko‘s debut documentary reveals the main focus of his film, Swetlana, as a modern-day literary sage.

When Jendreyko catches up with Swetlana – at age 87 – she is taking us on a trans-europe adventure back to the place where she was raised and into schools to impart her wisdom on the youth.  She is also sharing with us the lovingly and meticulous methods as to how she translates elephant-sized literary masterpieces.  It is in this sharing of knowledge that the film truly finds its narrative footing.

What I found most fascinating was Swetlana’s descriptions of the difficulties she undergoes while translating.  For instance, how does a country whose language does not have any words for certain important ideas translate their meanings to those who speak another language?

Swetlana is a driven woman who makes it her goal to see that the texts are translated as accurately as humanly possible. And in a time when bloggers are flooding the internet with phrases such as LOL and OMFG, literary scholars, such as Swetlana Geier and those who have a deep appreciation for text and its root meanings are becoming a rarity.

Though this documentary at times felt slower than its frail 87-year-old subject trying to trek through the Ukraine winter, eventually the film says what it has to say.  If you are able to sit patiently while watching this one, the pay-off of getting to know Swetlana will be a rewarding one.

Showtimes for The Woman With 5 Elephants:

Saturday, 10/23 12:00pm @ The Castro Theatre

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