War and Cheese is a short film directed by Ben Garfield that observes the humble yet inspiring dream of Oleg Sirota. He wishes to build a cheese factory in his native Russia.
Oleg narrates the film and discusses his goals for the future while also giving some background on the past history of Russia and how it has helped him pursue the things he wants. Overall, the film acknowledges the importance and beauty of both having a dream and working hard to make it part of your reality.
Many sanctions were passed in Russia and included amongst theme was a ban on the import of all Western cheese. Oleg was encouraged by this ban and decided to make a change for himself. He took it as an opportunity to follow his dream of opening a cheese farm. It’s inspiring to hear some of the sacrifices that this man has already made. He sold his business, his cars, his flat…etc. That shows how serious and committed he is about his dreams and it also hints that starting over can be quite fulfilling. It’s a tough transition to give up any source of comfort, but even more so when there is no promise of something better. There is no certainty that everything will work out and that the production of his cheese will be a huge success. However, he keeps working toward his goals and views his cheese factory as his “own small contribution to the Russian cause.” With any dream, I know that it takes a lot of belief in yourself and your capabilities to continue going even when you feel you’re going to fail. Essentially, you have to want your dream bad enough to understand it might not happen for a while, but that it’ll stay alive as long as you work on it.
Oleg says “It was difficult making the first move, it’s always difficult to dare.” He’s right in saying that because everything is easier when it’s just a dream that exists within the mind. It’s when the dream has to be physicalized that the process gets more complicated and less fun. I personally know that sometimes the fear of failing at my dreams can prevent me from taking a big leap. However, failure is inevitable and rather than looking at it as something that should be avoided, failure should be seen as a way to grow and overcome challenges. It’s the best way to gain more courage. For Oleg, there is more to accomplish, but the very fact that he made it so far already and was brave enough to even try, shows immense courage and skill.
There are some great scenes in the film that show how the cheese is being made. Oleg discusses some of the technical struggles he has had in producing the cheese like not being able to use a copper cauldron due to the Russian sanitary legislation. It’s interesting to hear how he has worked around these obstacles and not let the challenges crush his enthusiasm.
Though, my favorite part of the film was the scene inside his bedroom. From the outside, it already looks small and not like much. Then, the camera moves inside and he also points out that it isn’t a very big space. It doesn’t matter though because he has this beautiful little model of the farm he hopes to build someday. “I dream here and every morning when I wake up I see the model of my future farm. I love it.” He then goes about explaining all the different sections and there is something truly precious about this part of the film. Perhaps it is because of the setting being in such an intimate space and also the fact that we are shown the physical embodiment of what he hopes to achieve long term. I can imagine that this model is what keeps him strong and believing even when he has doubts. It’s such an understated sentimentality though to create something like that for yourself and use it as a way to refuel your dreams. It’s beautiful and not that different from a writer having a journal filled with story ideas or a fashion designer with sketches of the pieces they want to create one day. I think we all sometimes need those small details to keep the dream alive for us, especially on the days when it all becomes too foggy with insecurity to see clearly anymore.