It never happened before that the Old Believer community of Periprava (Danube Delta, Romania) did not have a priest – the most important leader of their traditional community. The continuity of such leadership has been kept throughout centuries without the help of any institution: Lipovan priests have always emerged from among the villagers and were educated within the community, with the help of the elders – until now.
The last priest of Periprava lays in bed for more than a year already, and the person chosen by the community as a replacement refused to become priest. A young boy trained now on the expense of the entire community cannot find a wife, the indispensable condition for priesthood. The village is desperate…
The story takes place in the picturesque, isolated scenery of the Danube Delta in Romania. The protagonist is a Russian Lipovan community chased away from Russia three hundred years ago for not accepting the religious reforms of 1666. They found refuge in the Delta where they kept their language, rituals ever since… up to now.
Today they have to face new problems: the absence of a religious leader, the migration of the youth, the intrusion of new colonizers… Their last ‘reader’ and storyteller, 75-year-old Artiom tells us the destiny of Old Believers as laid out in the Book.
The testimonies of these Old Believers about recent transformations, dying religion and their struggle to preserve archaic traditions reveal the vulnerability of a traditional community – with poetry and humour.
„The film is crafted with sensitivity and a beautiful understanding of the power of the visual image to reflect the passage of time, space and communal memory, and ends on a charming and hopeful message for the future. Filmed with respect over three years, Birds Way penetrates the life of a vanishing minority in the historical context of today’s Romania“. (Jury Astra Film Festival, Best Romanian Documentary – 2009 November)
„A pleasure to watch and learn from this fine observational documentary… and my congratulations to the directors for making a theme so far away from my urban jungle up in the Northern Europe – interesting, fascinating, warm and human. Why? Because of their obvious long stay down there close to the Danube where mostly old people live, close to their religion and language and rituals. The people in the film have found the filmmakers trustworthy and invited them into their houses… The generous answer given to this hospitality and openness comes out in an amazing cinematography by Trencsenyi, who catches the simple life and its beauty with respect and love… “ (Tue Steen Müller – Filmkommentaren, Denmark)