Wasteland: killing time with the kids of the internet

Watch the short film spotlighting the teens of Moscow, New York and Paris, and the things that connect them – Gosha Rubchinskiy and their iPhones

We are a generation for whom emojis speak louder than words, free to form global gangs that defy geography. It was this sense of connectivity that inspired filmmaker Nadia Bedzhanova to create Wasteland, a film which brings a group of kids from New York, Moscow and Paris together on screen to show that, thanks to the internet, youth culture can overcome borders. “I wanted to show Europe, USA, and Russia in some kind of juxtaposition,” she says. “The media wars between these countries drive division, but the kids are the same, despite their nations’ politics.”

With the entire cast self-styled in clothes by Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy, the film sees them skate, eat pizza and kill time in their own cities, all connected in spite of the thousands of miles and differing time zones between them. “They were real, they were who they are, they didn't have to pretend,” Bedzhanova says of her cast. “I mean, we are always texting, checking ‘likes’ and killing the time anyway, aren't we?” Watch the film above and read on to see what the filmmaker had to say about the project.

Why was it important that the characters connect digitally with each other?

Nadia Bedzhanova: Because that's what we all do, constantly. It's significant that the film has no dialogue and starts with the sound of typing: we spend more time chatting online than communicating in person. It's the era of complex duality: boredom and undying interest. 15 minutes of fame or anonymity. It's an era of likes and emojis – we can choose to send a sticker to describe our mood instead of actual words. Everything is fast, and because everything is fast, we get bored easy. We might not make it to the second page of a book or the second minute of a film. But despite this and that dualism, the digital world provides a freedom like never before. Our connectivity shrinks the world – suddenly Moscow feels like it's right next door to New York City.

Why were Gosha Rubchinskiy's clothes right for this film?

Nadia Bedzhanova: Gosha Rubchinskiy’s design aesthetic perfectly captures that of the youth of modern society. His clothes are wearable, simple pieces that young people can just throw on. Wasteland is a documentary project in which the characters were given the editorial freedom to style Gosha's garments in their own way. The clothes don't really define their style, the kids define the clothes. Some of the garments are called Arktida (written in Russian), a hypothetical continent in the North Pole that no longer exists. In Wasteland, it's a metaphor for a global connection: although the characters are in different places, they connect with each other online.

Why call it Wasteland?

Nadia Bedzhanova: Wasting time is universal. There's a time difference between each country, but they still waste it together: loitering around and sending pictures of each other to each other.

How did you find the characters in it?

Nadia Bedzhanova: The most important part of finding the characters was casting individuals rather than standard models; it was a way of bringing spontaneous moments and a real face to the story. Each person had to be open, accessible, and unafraid. I did an online casting with Nariman (who is in the Paris sequence), but we then met up and I immediately realised that he is his character. The same happened with Sophie (NYC) – she just had this vibe of a reckless girl I was looking for. Moscow was different: Ilya Mozhaev (W0WM0M), who wrote the music for Wasteland, was DJing at a witch house party, full of juke, gabber and jersey club music – nowadays the most popular subculture in Moscow. And I literally found the whole Moscow cast there on a stage. They were playing and partying in front of a huge crowd of zombie-looking kids. They're the new wave of Russian underground beat music. 

What energy sums up the youth in each city?

Nadia Bedzhanova: Although it's about a youthful, universal state of mind, each city has its own charm: Paris brings romance; Moscow, grey depression; NYC, sunlight, pizza, and skater boys. Each city has a different energy and a lot of choices, but ultimately, no matter the time of day, kids just want to hang out with friends. 

How would you describe the state of mind of the youth you depict?

Nadia Bedzhanova: We kind of get lost in this world of endless information – lost in the amount of choices we have, like deciding to do something useful, or play video games instead, or wander and roam the city, loiter and send pictures from the streets. When you're young, you crave freedom. You're afforded the time to explore, to be careless, even a little reckless. This state of mind is universal.