The Ballad Of Bering Strait

Seven Russian teenagers, classically trained musicians from small-town Obninsk, form a country-western band called Bering Strait and, after a chance encounter with an American businessman in a Moscow Mexican restaurant, find themselves pursuing the American dream in Tennessee. Really. The fresh-faced youngsters — Ilya Toshinsky, Natasha Borzilova, Sasha...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Seven Russian teenagers, classically trained musicians from small-town Obninsk, form a country-western band called Bering Strait and, after a chance encounter with an American businessman in a Moscow Mexican restaurant, find themselves pursuing the American dream in Tennessee. Really. The fresh-faced youngsters — Ilya Toshinsky, Natasha Borzilova, Sasha Ostrovsky, Lydia Salnikova, Alexander Arzamastev and Sergei Olkhovsky — met in music school as children, and their love affair with American country music began under the wing of a bluegrass-loving classical guitar instructor. They have some phenomenal luck: They're quickly signed to Arista Nashville, find a sympathetic manager, Mike Kinnamon, and a supportive producer, Brent Maher, who shield them from most of the inevitable music-business wheeling and dealing, and have a strong advocate in Arista executive Tim DuBois. Then, as they're in the studio working on their record, the other shoe drops. Arista is acquired and the Nashville division is absorbed; DuBois takes the band with him to a new label, but the venture collapses. Visa restrictions prevent the teenagers from getting jobs, while Kinnamon, who's providing their room and board, is a couple of missed mortgage payments away from losing his house and farm. With no label, no gigs and only the vague hope that their record will get made to sustain them, the teens are plagued by homesickness, self-doubt, boredom and second thoughts about their chances of succeeding where so many other equally talented hopefuls have failed. Bering Strait's travails are so typical of fledgling bands that their story would be pretty uninteresting were it not for the almost irresistible hook of its unusual protagonists. The sight of earnest young Russians fiddling and banjo-picking as though to the holler born is so wondrously strange it's hard not to smile, especially when they take to the stage of the Grand Old Opry and win over a crown of hard-core country music fans. And the musicians themselves are an engaging group, articulate and introspective — particularly the gravely beautiful Lydia, the most serious of the seven — without being fatuous or glib. Though filmmaker Nina Gilden Seavy followed Bering Strait for the better part of two years, their story is in no way over at the film's conclusion. It leaves them — no longer teenagers and far wiser in the ways of the music world — at the end of the beginning, signing yet another contract that holds out the promise of fame and fortune.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Seven Russian teenagers, classically trained musicians from small-town Obninsk, form a country-western band called Bering Strait and, after a chance encounter with an American businessman in a Moscow Mexican restaurant, find themselves pursuing the America… (more)

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