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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Country > Concert > Ballad Of Bering Strait

The Ballad of Bering Strait (documentary)


Picture: B-     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Main Program: B-



It is almost becoming a cliché to have documentaries about musicians.  Far beyond the Rockumentary days, we have seen Wim Wenders get a second wind out of the Buena Vista Social Club (1999) and Sam Jones’ I Am Trying to Break Your Heart – A Film about Wilco (2002, reviewed elsewhere on this site).  The Ballad of Bering Strait (2003), about the Russian Country band named after the geographical connection between Russia and Alaska, is another recent unique entry.


Vocalist Natasha had a father who died as the head of the Soviet analytical team who investigated how to clean up the nightmarish Chernobyl nuclear accident, Lydia is the other female vocalist who tells it like it is, Ilya was featured as a kid on The Today Show when he was considered a child prodigy via Glasnost, and the rest of the six band members have their own interesting stories to share.


Of all things, Robert Altman’s Nashville briefly crossed my mind, though this is dissimilar in many ways.  The band is following the American Dream in a way, but in their case, it is about having some kind of new life instead of rising to a better one as if they had been in the U.S. all the long.  Obviously, this is nowhere as political, and multi-layered.  Like Altman’s masterwork, if you do not like Country music, you will find this harder to sit through.  The program runs under two hours.


The documentary was shot on High Definition video, but the DVD does not quite demonstrate that.  The box says the presentation is full screen 4 X 3, when it is actually 16 X 9 widescreen TV ratio.  The transfer is mixed as a result, seeming on the light side at times.  The two soundtracks are Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and a 5.1 AC-3 mix that does not have as much bass as one would expect.  The two-channel version seems more naturalistic, while the 5.1 seems stretched out.  The extras include a music video, extended concert and documentary scenes, and trailers that fans and those who enjoyed the program would appreciate.


Bering Strait was still together as of presstime and if they do not make it big, this program will give them a cult status.  They are interesting, but the story is one we have seen before, give or take the twist of being from a former country that might have detested Country for obvious reasons.  It is worth a look now, and is likely to age in some interesting ways.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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