It’s the human equivalent of cleaning your room by sweeping everything into the closet and slamming the door; driving homeless people, especially children, to the outskirts of town and out of sight. That, according to Marianna Yarovskaya’s sobering documentary “Undesirables,” is exactly what the Russian police do every time the international spotlight shines on Moscow. It’s certainly not a new practice — the Soviets did it all the time — nor unique to Russia, as evidenced by the anti-vagrancy laws recently enacted in the U.S. Still, there’s something particularly distasteful about it when it’s done to kids.
In “Undesirables,” Yarovskaya, a former reporter for Russian State Television, has gathered a solid cross section of on-camera interviews to chronicle the tragic problem of keeping the kids — mostly runaways — out of sight during such high profile events as the Olympics. What’s so striking here is that everyone deals so matter-of-factly with this human tragedy. From the overwhelmed police, who admit to a so-called “101 Km Zone,” around Moscow beyond which it’s safe to move the kids, to the apathetic children themselves, everyone seems to be just playing along with the game. With a little trimming here and there, Yarovskaya could have herself a ready-made news-magazine piece here. The sad truth of the matter is, however, if all the victims and perpetrators are as blase about this crisis as those depicted in “Undesirables,” Yarovskaya is going to have a hard time getting anyone else to care.