Elza lives in a small town Lagan in the Republic of Kalmykia on the Caspian Sea.
Another year comes to an end, it’s cold and the steppe is covered in a thin layer of snow. When her husband, who makes a living from illegal fishing, asks her one night what she did during the day, she lies. She wasn’t at her mother’s, but at the bus stop. She thought of leaving – to find out what it might be to escape the infinite expanse of her dreary small world. But she didn’t dare; instead she stays and withdraws into herself, unconcerned by who might see.
One day, her husband doesn’t return from a dangerous boat trip.
It is said that a fisherman only returns if he has a woman waiting for him and that seagulls are the souls of the missing.
At the start of a somewhat unplanned pregnancy, widowed and alone, Elza wanders ever further through the city, plotting a path between tradition and the contemporary until she’s no longer on familiar ground.
In her debut film, Ella Manzheeva gains access to Elza’s inner life through the lens of landscapes, living rooms, offices, corridors and roads. In Chaiki, Kalmykia is not a backdrop but a state of mind.