The Perfect Sweat series begins filming in Russia

In the Russian banya episode, photojournalist Mikkel Aaland returns to Russia after 43 years and meets Anna Burkina, a young, local banya enthusiast who represents a new generation of Russians who celebrate traditional sweat culture but are using the banya as a meeting place to connect with their peers and launch their creative careers on a global stage.

Throughout recorded human history, the sweat bath has comforted, healed, and strengthened the social bonds between rich and poor, young and old, strong and the weak. In Finland and much of the modern world, the sweat bath is known as the sauna. But the sauna is only part of the picture. In the Middle East the sweat bath is known as the hammam, in Mexico the temescal, in Russia the banya and among native Americans, it is known as the sweat lodge. Each bathing culture has their passionate devotees, unique history, rituals, and architecture.

Now, in this documentary series, sweat bathing guru Aaland teams up with local guides and retraces his steps in search of the Perfect Sweat. What he finds is an explosive rebirth of the ancient bathing traditions, traditions which include community rituals that are meant to revive the human spirit and change the world. So sit back and relax, and travel with us on this amazing and unique adventure!



Mikkel Aaland is an award-winning photojournalist and the best-selling author of fifteen books. Aaland’s best known book is the 1978 classic best seller ‘Sweat, The Illustrated History and Description of the Finnish Sauna, Russian Banya, Islamic Hamman, Japanese Mushi-buro, Mexican Temescal and American Indian & Eskimo Sweat lodge.’ Aaland, who leads photography workshops around the globe, is comfortable both in front and behind a camera.


Alina Rudnitskaya is an award winning film director and producer. She is a 1976 graduate of St. Petersburg University for Arts and Culture, Department of Film Directing, where she started her career in the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio.  Rudnitskaya’s films have been shown worldwide and received critical acclaim and prizes in festivals in Leipzig, Madrid, Oberhausen, Zagreb, Berlin, Belgrade, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Rudnitskaya’s films always have a characteristic original perspective; she is interested not only in depicting the facts of life but also in exploring the internal worlds of her characters. She succeeds in painting a vivid image of modern society while maintaining a very personal and humanistic approach to each one of her stories.


Anna Burkina is a 25 year-old interior design journalist and public relations specialist, representing cutting-edge architects, brands and dealers. Burkina’s creative design company is called the Shum (which means ‘noise’ in Russian) Agency. Anna is a dedicated blogger whose posts about the banya culture are followed by over 10,000. She calls herself a “banya addicted girl’ who is hooked on the healthy living communal aspects of the traditional bathing culture of Russia.


Bray’s Run Productions is a Seattle-based independent film production company that specializes in exploring culture, history and travel through the prism of charismatic people across the globe. We open doors into aspects of culture that traditional media has overlooked.