Issue 71 (2021)

Andrei Korytko: Yards (Iardy, 2020)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2021

yardyThe debut film Yards by Andrei Korytko from Stavropol is a revised and extended version of the young filmmaker’s diploma film Iardy.Doc that he made just a few years prior to that at the Moscow Film School and that was shown at the documentary film festival Artdocfest. Korytko made his debut film with a relatively small budget of 25 million rubles and without any support from the Russian Cinema Fund or other major film production companies. Yards is his first full-length feature film—prior to that, he mostly made shorts. The film is based on the story of a rapper from Stavropol, ЯR (Iaroslav Zheltov), a close friend of the filmmaker, who also recorded a dozen soundtracks and the original music for the film. Even the title of the film has been borrowed from the rapper’s song Yards (“Iardy”) that also refers to the first two letters of his name “Ia” and “R” (“Я” and “R”). The producer even draws some parallels between the title of Yards and a famous 2002 American film by Curtis Hanson starring Eminem: 8 Miles (Chemonin 2018). Originally, the leading male role was supposed to be played by Iaroslav Zheltov himself, however, later, his candidacy was replaced with a young professional actor, Roman Evdokimov. To some extent, Yards continues the tradition of Russian and Soviet films about young musicians, in some of which the real musicians play leading or supporting roles, a genre exemplified by pop singer Alla Pugacheva in Aleksandr Orlov’s The Woman Who Sings (Zhenshchina, kotoraia poet, 1979), rock musician Viktor Tsoi in Rashid Nugmanov’s The Needle (Igla, 1988) and Sergei Solov'ev’s Assa (1987), and rapper Noize MC in Andrei Kudinenko’s The Practical Joke (Rozygrysh, 2008).

yardyThe producer of the film, Vladimir Komarov, explains that Yards is a film “about the realization of a dream through a hard path, … and not about rap music, but about a person and his history” (Korsakova and Likhacheva 2018). For that reason, the filmmakers have chosen the slogan for the film from one of Zheltov’s songs: “No reason to give up” (“Sdavat’sia ne rezon”). For the director and the producer, the story of a young man from the provinces, who tries to conquer the ambitious, tempting, impetuous, but cruel and selfish capital of Russia, is close to their hearts as both of them left their provincial towns (Stavropol and Staryi Oskol) in search for professional and financial opportunities. Their personal struggles and sacrifices on their paths to success in the Russian film industry also found their way into the film’s narrative core, as the filmmakers share their protagonist’s main headache—finding money for the creative project—even during the production of Yards. While using rap music and music scenery as the main setting for the cinematic narrative, Yards offers viewers a detailed examination of the cultural and social scene of contemporary Moscow while focusing on the story of self-realization of young Russians. Thus, Korytko’s film conforms to a popular trope of Russian and Soviet culture:  a trip from the periphery to the center with the expectation of great success and financial stability at the final destination.

yardyThe young protagonist of Korytko’s film, Iaroslav, or Iarik, travels to Moscow from Stavropol in search for professional opportunities as a rap musician. He works at a water delivery company and, later, at the karaoke bar and lives in a rental apartment with his girlfriend Tania, a student at a prestigious fashion school. Iarik is invited to participate in the TV show “Songs,” hosted by famous Russian rappers, Timati and Basta, however, due to a series of unfortunate events, his participation in the show becomes problematic. He needs to record a professional music track, for which he must find 50,000 rubles in a very short time period. Similar to characters in Russian fairy tales, Iarik attempts to complete a series of challenges and tasks in order to achieve his goal and to record a music track for the show. As in the narrative of many fairy tales, he receives help from a “magic helper”—his best friend Misha-Lomonog. On his journey to financial and professional success, the young rapper participates in a rap battle, works multiple jobs, sells his personal possessions and girlfriend’s camera, and eventually jeopardizes his relationship with her. Thus, recording a track for the show becomes an obsession and a moral journey for Iarik, on which he both succeeds and fails.

Rap music and scenes with rap battles and rap music recording occupy a significant part of the film narrative and soundtrack, with some other music styles sporadically appearing throughout the film. Each soundtrack is associated with a specific locale and a specific social group: estrada music with the second-hand store owner (Viacheslav Dobrynin’s 2001 song “Music is Flowing”), pop music with the drunk karaoke bar visitors (Fillip Kirkorov’s 2011 song “Snow”), rock music with the administrator at the recording studio (Nol'’s 1992 song “I am Walking and Smoking” and 7B’s 2001 “Young Winds”), classical music with a rich, older man who is trying to seduce Iarik and Lomonog in his luxury apartment, and techno music with the Moscow elite at the fashion show. Despite these occasional invasions of the film soundtrack by other music styles, rap music dominates the film diegetically and non-diegetically and specifically represents the younger generation of Russians.

Rap is associated with the main protagonist from the very beginning and accompanies Iarik’s journey until the final scenes of the film. The lyrics of the rap songs create a second narrative and symbolic layer, or a voice-over, that reflects on or predicts the events in the main characters’ lives and also articulates their thoughts and emotions. Yards begins with a rap concert at a Moscow night club where Iarik performs his song “Cashflow” (feat. Jewcuba), thus establishing financial gain and fame as the main drive behind the protagonist’ actions and introducing him as a creative subject and a star (“like Alice Cooper”). The song presents Moscow as a megapolis of “a simple setup, glamour, and gloss,” also suggests that it is the center of vanity and corruption.

yardyThroughout the film, various rap songs mirror the specific part of Iarik’s adventures in Moscow and function as an embodiment of the young musician’s hidden thoughts and feelings. The first song in the film, “Cashflow,” is relatively optimistic and parallels Iarik’s enthusiasm about all the opportunities that Moscow may offer its visitors. This song serves as a background for the cheerful music video as it transitions from the night club setting into Iarik’s earlier life in a flashback manner. The video uses bright colors and fast, rhythmic transitions and depicts the young rapper and his other two friends—Misha and Dave—playing music, hanging out on the basketball court, at the recording studio, and at the amusement park, and Iarik’s carefree life with his girlfriend, Tania.  When Iarik is riding in a cab on the streets of Moscow, the lyrics of the song “The First” (“Pervyi”) mimic the challenges on his path to professional success—“they wanted me to fall down, but I went up,” “chasing after a dream,” “fly high or fall to your knees,” and “be the first, hit the first.” The shot of the young rapper in the car is juxtaposed with the billboard on a side of the road that advertises the TV show with Timati and Basta. It serves as a reminder of Iarik’s ambitious plans to become the first in the rap music industry. Later in the film, the rap music foreshadows Iarik and Tania’s relationship that gets more complicated while she reaches success in the fashion industry and the two of them begin to drift apart. The song “These Secrets” (“Eti tainy,” feat. Sasha Grekova) offers its own critical reflection on the potential outcome of the young couple’s relationship: “love is not only happiness, but also an incident, a trial,” “we were sinking into the feelings that soon would disappear,” “it is empty now,” and “many love stories are memories now.”

Thus, the capital disappoints, relationships break down, some friends let him down, while other friends prove their loyalty and commitment to shared goals. Betrayed by Dave, Iarik finally records his soundtrack with the help of his friend Lomonog, a sound director Paul', other acquaintances, and fellow-musicians. The song is no longer needed for the show but is created from the desire to make some honest, “real” music. In one of the final scenes of Yards, the rapper is performing his song “The South Son” (“Iuzhnii syn”) that becomes a hit and, presumably, opens the door for his lucrative career as a professional musician. The song not only represents the collective effort and the combination of music styles within it (it includes some choral folk singing, typical of the southern part of Russia, an electric guitar solo, and a female vocal), but also symbolizes the power of music when it is created for the right purposes and not for commercial success and fame (the closing scene at the TV show with the song “Cashflow” losing the competition proves this statement). Even though Iarik has to make some difficult decisions and to lose people in his life, at the end, he remains true to himself: this is represented in the repetitive phrase in English throughout “The South Son”—“I am.” This song confirms that Moscow has never been a good fit for the young rapper, and he has never been able to change: “everyone is silent here, in a large, cold city,” “I am again a stranger here,” “mom, you were right—in all these years, I have never become different.”

Olga Klimova
University of Pittsburgh

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Works Cited

Chemonin, Rodion. 2018. “‘Snimaetsia kino ‘Iardy’,” TVkinoradio 25 July.

Korsakova, Mariia; Likhacheva, Anastasiia. 2018. “Neizvestnaia komanda molodykh snimaet fil'm pro rep.” Moskovskii komsomolets 11 July.


Yards, Russia, 2020
Color, 92 mins
Director: Andrei Korytko
Script: Andrei Kory, Fedor Derevianskii
Camera: Lesha Iankov
Production Design: Semen Stupin
Sound: Stas Kravets
Music: ЯR aka Iaroslav Zheltov
Editing: Andrei Korytko, Nadia Filatova, Igor' Vandik
Cast: Roman Evdokimov, Dmitrii Bykov, Marina Mitrofanova, Askar Il'iasov, Rafael' Durnoian, Grigorii Danziger, Lana Raider
Producer: Vladimir Komarov
Production: Event Horizon

Andrei Korytko: Yards (Iardy, 2020)

reviewed by Olga Klimova © 2021

Updated: 2021