The Whaler Boy (Kitoboy): a Movie about Finding your Place in the World

The Whaler Boy (Kitoboy) is the debut film by Russian director Philipp Yuryev (Филипп Юрьев), presented at the 77th edition of the Venice International Film Festival, in competition in the Venice Days section.

In a small village on the Bering Strait, Leshka (Владимир Онохов, Vladimir Onokhov), a Chukchi teenager, lives a humble existence with his grandfather, who has almost completely lost his sight and repeats every day that he is about to die, but loves to dance alone in intimacy, within the four walls.

whaler boy

Leshka earns his living by whaling (Китобойный промысел), hunting the imposing bowhead whales, the only specimens that spend all their lives in the icy Arctic waters, without ever migrating. With him works his peer Kolyan (Владимир Михайлович Любимцев).

whaler boy

From the sea to the village there is a five-hour drive. Fishing is done on small boats and one single enormous cetacean must be transported ashore with five or six boats at a time. Once the animal is dissected, only the carcass remains on the beach and its blood is lost in the water that bathes the shore. The flesh of a whale feeds the whole village.

whaler boy

Living in a remote village in the tundra of the Russian Far East, between the automaton region of Chukotka (Чуко́тка) and Alaska, does not offer Leshka and Kolyan much fun and, above all, almost no chance to meet girls at an awkward age, when sexual impulses are are gaining in importance.

whaler boy

Sometimes fishermen bring “exotic” blonde prostitutes to the village to get young boys acquainted with sex. Since the village is equipped with internet, the men of the village whatch very often camfirls on erotic chats. Leshka gradually falls in love with one camgirl, HollySweet999, played by Kristina Asmus (Кристи́на И́горевна А́смус), known for her television role in the medical sitcom Interns (Интерны).

whaler boy

Leshka is obsessed with her beauty, he wants her with all of his heart. He wants her to become his girlfriend and soon he starts searching for her on the internet, because Kolyan reveals to him that she is American, living on the other side of the world, in that continent so different from Russia and even more different from his land Chukotka, where the sun never shines. Anyway, America is so close, just over eighty kilometres away, across the icy waters of the Bering Strait. The United States, where many of the villagers failed in their attempt to emigrate, either captured by the Russian border guard or rejected on the US border in Alaska.

whaler boy

Leska borrows a children’s book from the village library to learn English. He presses with force the pen connected to the book to listen to the correct pronunciation of the objects represented in the picture book. Leska spends hours talking to the girl in the sex chat, who cannot hear him, cannot see him. Leshka declares his love to her in basic, ungrammatical English: “I like your big blue face”, instead of saying eyes, “I to be your wife”, instead of saying “I want to be your husband”.

Connecting to the sex chat, one night, Leshka is shocked to discover that his beloved HollySweet999 is not available because she is in a private chat with a client. Leshka’s wrath is uncontrollable. He attacks Kolyan like a fury, because his friend once, to dissuade him from pursuing his dream of love with the virtual prostitute, revealed to him that millions of men around the world masturbate simultaneously in front of HollySweet999, including Kolyan himself. Blinded by jealousy, Leshka is convinced that Kolyan is the client who is currently having virtual sex with HollySweet999.

As in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, Leshka’s pure soul interprets reality as a romantic dream of love and the pain he feels by imaging his sweet camgirl, who is forced to go beyond soft-porn dancing because of Kolyan, makes him crazy, but at the same time gives him the courage he needed to leave his village, apparently in search of his love, but deep down in search of a place to fulfill himself.

Leila Tavi

whaler boy


Photos: Courtesy of La Biennale Cinema

Video: Coutesy of Venice Days (Giornate degli Autori)

Read our review on Molecole by Andrea Segre


Leila Tavi

Leila Tavi is a journalist specialized in Russian Politics and Culture and PhD c. in Russian History at the University of Vienna under the supervision of Prof. Andreas Kappeler. She studied Political Science in Vienna and Rome, graduating in History of Eastern Europe at Roma Tre University, with Prof. Francesco Guida and a thesis on travel reports about Saint Petersburg by West Europeans at the beginning of the XIX Century. Previously she obtained a degree in Foreign Languages, with a specialization in German Philology at the University of Rome «La Sapienza». Her new book "East of the Danube" is coming soon.

Un pensiero riguardo “The Whaler Boy (Kitoboy): a Movie about Finding your Place in the World

  • 12 January 2022 in 14:07

    Great post I have been reading all your posts and they are really great keep up the good work.


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