June 12, 1985 ‘VIDEO FROM RUSSIA By WALTER GOODMAN
LAST year, an American film maker, Dimitri Devyatkin, took his cameras to the Soviet Union and talked to people in the streets of six cities - Moscow, Kiev, Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Leningrad and Volgograd. The result, ''Video From Russia: The People Speak,'' can be seen tonight at 8 on cable television's Arts and Entertainment network.
The interviews are done in Russian and translated. We are told by the narrator, Margot Kidder, they were conducted spontaneously; no official permission was sought or obtained, and there were no obstacles to taking the film out of the country. As it turned out, the authorities had nothing to worry about.
Wherever the camera crew goes -a farmers' market, an exhibition of arms, a disco, an amusement park, a children's playground, a church service - the people interviewed call for peace and friendship, usually in that order. Most express admiration for America and displeasure with the Reagan Administration, which, they say, is promoting war between the two countries. Several recall the hardships of World War II and speak of the horrors of nuclear war. The people are generally attractive, even the plain-looking bride who wants the wedding photographer to do something about her double chin, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity, but they do have a way of saying identical things in nearly identical language.
The few exceptions to the peace-and-friendship refrain are a group of self-identified ''punks,'' who declare, in unexpectedly philosophical jargon, that they are alienated because no society in the world offers them the freedom to be themselves, and a couple of young men who would like to go to America because in Russia they have to stand in line to buy things, but in America ''you just take it.''
The most revealing moments are the awkward ones: a man is stopped by the police after being interviewed, and Mr. Devyatkin intercedes for him. A woman demands what right the crew has to be interviewing children, and a mother pulls her 10-year-old daughter away as she begins to respond to questions. Some people decline to say anything; ''I don't know, I'm afraid,'' one woman mumbles, and hurries away.
''The People Speak'' makes a colorful travelogue, capturing scenes and faces of daily life in cities that still hold considerable fascination for Americans. The bits of narration tend toward the ingenuous: Miss Kidder reports, for example, that after the Revolution, the Communists discouraged religion, but now worshipers are permitted to attend Russian Orthodox services without official interference, a summary that does not quite do justice to the complicated relations between the Soviet Government and the Orthodox Church.
In general, the pictures offer more than the words. As person after person uses the same few words to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, viewers may conclude that they are hearing echoes, not voices. ''The Soviet Union and America are not friends,'' says a 12-year-old, ''because the Soviet Union does not want a war and America does.'' Where can he have gotten that idea? In the interests of peace and friendship perhaps, Mr. Devyatkin does not press very hard, but in one case he asks a young woman who has stated her displeasure with Mr. Reagan why she feels that way. She pauses, seemingly perplexed, then replies, ''It's what I see so much on TV.''
International Herald Tribune -- September 28, 1984 Vox Populi, Filmed in Soviet Streets By Vicky Elliott