The New York Film Critics Series screened NATASHA as part of the Spring series. The film is based on a short story by the writer/director of the film David Bezmozgis.
The film centers around 16 year old Mark Berman and a summer that changes everything. Mark is the son of Russian immigrants and lives in the suburbs in Toronto. Mark’s uncle gets married to a woman from Moscow and the woman’s daughter, Natasha arrives from Moscow to live with her mother and new stepfather.
Mark’s parents want him to get a job, which then turns into him being asked by his mother to spend time with his new cousin Natasha. Mark’s mother believes this will not only help Natasha settle into her new home, but it will also give his uncle and his new wife time some alone time to create a home and marriage.
Although Mark does not want to be in charge of showing Natasha around, he shows up at her home the next day. The two begin to spend a lot of time together getting to know each other. He begins to show her around his world, his daily activities, his love of philosophy, and his friends.
What starts out as an innocent relationship quickly turns into a forbidden romance between two young teenagers. Even though Natasha is only 14 she is very experienced and knows how to get exactly what she wants. She opens up to Mark about her troubled and scandalous past. She seduces him and the two begin a secret relationship. Mark is both excited, but fearful of the secret they are keeping.
Natasha has a very dysfunctional relationship that escalates throughout the film while her relationship with Mark begins to fall apart.
The film is filled with manipulation, secrets, and family relationships.
Following the film was a Q&A hosted by Stephen Whitty, with the writer/director of the film David Bezmozgis and Sasha K. Gordon who plays Natasha.
David Bezmozgis explained how this film is based on his short story and he was inspired to show a real representation of Russians that he didn’t feel like is often shown. He wanted to be able to share that with others.
When casting for the film, they had a very difficult time finding the right actress to play Natasha. They felt that Sasha K. Gordon was perfect for the role. She explained how this was her first feature role and how exciting it was and comfortable others made her feel. She said, “It was really incredible”.
In order to prepare for her relationship with Mark (Alex Ozerov) the pair spent a lot of time together getting to know each other. Sasha called Mark very deep and spiritual.
The first thing she filmed for the movie was a provocative photo shoot. The photos of this shoot were used in the film to show Alex what her like was like in Moscow. David explained how professional she was immediately, even though this could be a very challenging way to begin a film.
They were both very proud of how the film came out and look forward to others seeing it.