Nelli Makeeva has an exuberant passion for life despite living in demanding conditions in the industrial town of Nikel in Northern Russia. Here the average life expectancy is 10 years below that of the rest of Russia. There are frequent occurrences of breathing related illnesses, cancer, low immune systems, low fertility rates and other diseases due to the bad pollution from the nickel smelting industry.
Nelli, nevertheless, believes in making the best out of her destiny. She has the rare ability of transforming words and materials into magic. Apart from being a devoted housewife of the old fashioned kind that gets up and cooks breakfast for her husband at 5AM, she is an accomplished storyteller and also known for her delicious home baking. In addition, Nelli began to paint when her children left home and started transforming pieces of wood into works of art.
In the film The Magic Tablecloth Nelli shares some of her reflections on life whilst her hands are transforming simple ingredients into wondrous baking. While the arctic winds are howling on the outside and the frost obscuring the view out of the window of her 5th floor Stalin apartment, Nelly is teaching her grandson Gleb the art of making pirogues. Through Nellie’s gentle and affectionate guidance Gleb eagerly learns to use his senses in the process as he smells and feels his way through the baking. It becomes an enchanting story about affection, creation, time and appreciation of life.