The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga

73 mins.
Directed by Jessica Oreck
Polish and Russian with subtitles

Filmmaker Jessica Oreck in person!

Presented as part of the Bellwether Film Series. Click for more information.

Free tickets for Amherst Cinema Members. Limit one ticket per Member. Free tickets available only at the Amherst Cinema box office (not online).

Within a dense forest there lingers a sense of sinister foreboding, remnants of a nearly forgotten story, where the fairy tales of childhood persist within the subconscious.

For generations of Slavic peoples, this fear manifested itself in the form of the mythical witch Baba Yaga — to roam too near her hut perched on chicken legs was to risk being roasted for her dinner. In spite of this culturally ingrained dread, the turbulence of war, famine, and destruction that stains the pages of Eastern European history led to the witch's figurative vanquishing. Refugees fled to her woods for shelter, nourishment and sanctuary, and in so doing, reshaped an entire culture's perception of nature.

This transition was slow and unconscious, and is best told through the stories of the region — the memories of those who experienced periods of warfare first-hand as well as the recollections that have passed generation to generation.

To bring these stories to life, we have merged countless accounts into a single, unified narrative — an animated fairy tale that gathers history, folklore, and memory into one.

This fairy tale is intertwined with an anthropological exploration of modern day, post-conflict Eastern Europe.

Combining these elements, THE VANQUISHING is about more than a single moment in history. It is about the accumulation of history, the accumulation of repetitive action, the retelling of stories retold, the retention of belief, and the unconscious osmosis of ideas. It is a study of collective, social memory and how it shapes our interactions with the world around us.

About the filmmaker:

Jessica Oreck makes projects large and small that hope to re-inspire a sense of wonder about the world of the everyday. Her features (The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, and Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys) focus on ethnobiology and unique, geo-specific cultures.

Her recent web series for TED (Mysteries of the Vernacular) breathes fresh life to an alphabet of common words, while her new kids' series (Arthropoda) stars some of the world's most fascinating creepy-crawlies. Jessica currently resides in a tiny village in western Germany but can be often found traveling the world on film-related adventures.