The Woman with the 5 Elephants

About the Film


Swetlana Geier is considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German. Her  translations of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels, known as the "five elephants", are her life’s work and literary mile-stones. Her work is characterized by a great and sensual feeling for language and uncompromising respect for the writers she translated. The film interweaves the story of Swetlana Geier’s life with her literary work and traces the secret of this inexhaustible mediator of language. It tells of great suffering, silent helpers and unhoped-for chances - and a love of language that outshines all else.


Svetlana Geier

Svetlana Geier

A translation is not a caterpillar crawling from left to right, a translation always emerges from the whole. Do you understand? One has to make the text entirely one's own. The Germans say "internalised".

Svetlana Geier (neé: Swetlana Michailowna Iwanowa; born on April 26, 1923 in Kiew, Ukraine/ehe. Sowjetunion, died on November 7, 2010 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

She ranks amongst the most important translators of Russian literature in the German-speaking world. Amongst other works, she translated those of Tolstoi, Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn and became known to a wider public through new translations of the great novels by Fjodor Dostojewski.



Vadim Jendreyko was born in 1965 in Germany and grew up in Switzerland. He attended grammar school, the Basel School of Applied Art and the Düsseldorf Art Academy. He realised his first film in 1986. IN 2002, he and Hercli Bundi founded Mira Film GmbH, where he also works as producer and co-producer. He is the father of two children and lives in Basel.

Filmography as a director (Selection from 2002 on)

2002 “Bashkim”, cinema documentary 85 min., produced by Carac Film AG, (Swiss Film Prize 2002, Best Documentary)

2003  “Transit– Zürich Flughafen” ("Transit - Zurich airport") 54 min. documentary for Swiss Television (SF), produced by Mira Film GmbH, (Best of Dok SF DRS 2003)

2004 “Leistung am Limit” ("Maximum performance") 53 min. Dok–Film SF DRS, produced by Mira Film GmbH

2009 “The Woman with the five Elephants”, cinema documentary 93 min. produced by Mira Film GmbH and Filmtank with ZDF/3sat, SF

2011 Die Singende Stadt TV-Doc 92 min, Production Mira Film GmbH and Filmtank

2018 Beyond the Obvious TV-Doc 70 min. Production Golden Egg Production, in cooperation with Mira Film


Bozner Filmtage 2010


Bundesamt für Kultur, Swiss Film Award «Quartz» 2010

Best Documentary Film

Filmfestival Listapad 2010

Grand Prix for the Best Film

Golden Apricot Yerevan IFF 2010

Silver Apricot Special Prize for Documentary Film

DOK Leipzig 2009


Minneapolis/St.Paul IFF 2010

Audience Prize

Moondance IFF 2010

Atlantis Award

RIDM 2010

Prix Image

Silverdocs Documentary Festival AFI 2010

Sterling Award for Best World Feature

TIDF Taiwan International Documentary Festival 2010

Jury's Special Mention

Trieste Film Festival 2010

Alpe Adria Cinema Award for the Best Documentary Film

Trieste Film Festival 2010

Audience Award documentary film competition

Visions du Réel 2009

Grand Prix SSA/Suissimage pour le meilleur long métrage suisse

Visions du Réel 2009

Mention spéciale du Jury interreligieux

Visions du Réel 2009

Prix SRG SSR idée suisse

Yamagata Int. Documentary Film Festival 2011

Award of Excellence

Yamagata Int. Documentary Film Festival 2011

Citizen's Prize



Swetlana Geier

Anna Götte

Hannelore Hagen

Jürgen Klodt

Written and directed by

Vadim Jendreyko

Director of photography

Niels Bolbrinker

Stéphane Kuthy


Patrick Becker


Gisela Castronari-Jaensch

Original music

Daniel Almada

Martin Iannaccone

Production Switzerland

Mira Film GmbH

Production Germany

Filmtank Hamburg GmbH



Schweizer Fernsehen

With financial support of

MFG Baden Württemberg

Bundesamt für Kultur

Fachausschuss Audiovision und Multimedia der Kantone Basel-Stadt und Basel-Landschaft

Volkart Stiftung

S. Fischer Stiftung

Stiftung Edith Maryon

Robert Bosch Stiftung

Ernst Göhner Stiftung

UBS Kulturstiftung

Migros Kulturprozent

Focal Stagepool

Developed with the support of the

MEDIA Programme of the European Community

Technical Details







Aspect Ratio






Original Language

German, Russian


German, French, English


Switzerland, Germany