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Saturday, 21 May 2016

DOKer II Day One and Two and Further Recommendations

A clip from the opening film Ruch and Norie.

The 2nd DOKer International Film Festival has got off to an excellent start with some excellent films. The opening film at the festival took place at one of Moscow's largest cinema's 'October' on the central Noviy Arbat street. That an independent festival of documentary cinema can open at Moscow's major cinema and call almost entirely fill its main screen (something that only the main Moscow International Film Festival is able to do) is a sign of genuine hope for the future of documentary in Russia indicating a real thirst for reality in a world that seems to be becoming ever more phantasmagorical.

Day One and Day Two saw some very powerful films being shown. The opening film was a hymn to cross-cultural communication in the guise of a story of friendship between a young Japanese anthropologist and an elderly Latvian grandmother from a small ethnic community and entitled Ruch and Norie. Very strong visually and able to transmit deep transmit human emotions in such a way that palpably moved the audience to this unforced story of a very unlikely friendship.

Day Two had some gems too. One was David Bernet's Democracy with an in-depth and behind the scenes look at the European parliament and the battles and pressure on a German Green politician by big business. Day Two was also the long-awaited Russian film by the Rastorguev film Norilsk: A First Person Account which I'll be reviewing soon.

   The New Zealand film The Ground We Won a cinema verite film by Cristopher Pryor and Miriam Smith on the bawdy world of a rugby team of New Zealander farmers. There were interesting shorts such as the film Guillo - a tale of freedom and loneliness.

Today has some excellent films too. Starting with a film about Trieste that sismograph of Europe. Perhaps the film that I'm most waiting for having lived in the city for two years. A tale of immigration unlike others in which the immigrants and the city of reflect each other as in a poem by Umberto Saba that great cantor of this atypical Italian city. The gaze of the city from a filmmaker from Marseilles, Jean Boiron Lajous, and his documentary subjects has also had some very positive reviews from the Italian press.

A clip from the film Terra di Nessuno on Trieste

The theme emigration is also touched on in the next film today entitled Sixty Spanish Cigarettes, a minimalist metaphor for Spain's bleak and growingly desperate socioeconomic in which emigration is one of the only ways out. This is the first time it will be shown outside of Mediterranean film festivals.

The third film in the main competition is Lenin Park, once again a Spanish-language film, this time from Cuba. A documentary by Carlos Mignon and Itziar Leemans. Taking its name from a Havana amusement park where the Kessel Brothers share their last memory. A film elegy on the death of a mother, on the difficulty of life without her and once again a film on emigration.


Today's films also include four shorts and three films from the Let IT Dok! competition. The only IT documentary competition in the world- an area that DOKer has marked out completely for itself.

Tomorrow's film from the Let IT Dok! competition Capital C is said to be one of the most awaited films of the festival. A crowdfunded film on the crowdfunding and shot in 24 countries, the film has already been making waves throughout the world.

 Two more films deal with an African subject matter (or rather Euro-African links). Both Warriors and Leaving Africa promise to be of interest:

 On Monday the Let IT Dok! competition has another very strong contender in the guise of a film narrated by Tilda Swinton explaining how the mania for new technology is as old as the hills:

A glowing four star review in the Guardian reveals details as to why this may be one of the films to look out for at this festival and a film that most determinedly references early Soviet cinema.

An Pakistani film shown at IDFA A Walnut Tree and an Iranian film Wedding shown at Leipzig also are likely to surprise and delight audiences.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

International Documentary Showcased in Moscow: Year 2 of the Doker International Film Festival.


The Second Edition of the DOKer International Documentary Film Festival will be opening in a couple of days time and will last from May 19th to May 24th. It has already established a reputation as the only genuinely international festival of documentary film in Russia. Unlike festivals such as Art Doc Fest it doesn't concentrate its gaze on Russian documentaries, or films with Russian subject matter or in the Russian language. And unlike Perm's Flahertiana festival it does not devote itself to a niche of purely observational documentaries. Instead it tries and succeeds in its goal of bringing high-class art documentaries from every continent to Moscow thus contributing to that much needed dialogue with the international documentary community. A brief look at the upcoming programme of the festival shows how the DOKer team have rapidly earned their reputation of being the main forum where international documentaries can be seen and discussed in Russia. This year at just its second edition, 1,700 films from 97 countries have been submitted. Many of the films have been specially invited to the DOKer festival after their world premieres at such prestigious world film festivals such as the Berlinale and Locarno and at the highly regarded documentary film festivals such as Canada's Hot Docs and Amsterdam's IDFA.


This year as well as the main competition programme showcasing some very fine feature length films from New Zealand to Peru and the shorts programme (hosting those new filmmakers who may well go on to become the next generation of leading documentary filmmakers), there is a new competition programme featuring a rather unique genre of documentaries that has, it seems, no other major festival platform in the world. This is the "Let IT Dok" programme of documentaries on Information Technology.


All selected films will have their Russian premiere at this festival. The festival itself sprung up as a result of an extraordinarily heroic experiment by a small team of documentary filmmakers who, since 2011, have been bringing documentary film to many towns and cities across Russia (and not just to its capital). The DOKer Project doesn't limit itself to films showings but also organizes discussions with the team behind the film, master classes, closed screenings before world premieres and often assists and supports the local theatrical releases of Russian films. On top of the festival screenings the team have organised over 350 screenings of documentary films to an audience of over 30,000. Sometimes these screenings have paved the way to participation in various important film festivals.

All this hard work has paid off with the formation of this festival, now in its second edition after an extremely successful first run.

Four Russian films will be introduced at the festival. In the main competition programme, Maria Murashova will present her Collectors of Sea Grass whose first screening took place at the Dvizhenie Film Festival in Omsk where it won the first prize in the Documentary Competition. There are two short films by Vladimir Golovnev (Two Childhoods) and Yulia Panasenko (Intro- the second film of a dilogy, the first of which won various important national film awards). In the "Let IT Dok" section, a well-known web documentary interactive project is taking part created by the large team of documentalists under the direction of Alexander Rastorguev and Alexei Pivovarov with their film project "Norilsk In the First Person"

Mike Lerner, a jury member who will be giving a Master Class at the Festival

The three juries who will judge the films are made up of some very fine professionals in their field. Mike Lerner, the British producer and director who was nominated for an Oscar for his film Hell and Back Again. Lerner is also the holder of six Sundance Festival awards and two Emmy's. His work has also touched Russian subject matters such as Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. As has the work of Pirjo Honkasalo whose 2004 portrait of Chechnya in her film Three Rooms of Melancholia won many international film awards including three special awards at the Venice Film festival in 2004. It created a stunning portrait of the tragic affect of the Chechen conflict on children in Russia and Chechnya prompting the New York Times critic to call it "one of the saddest films ever made". There are jurists from Italy- Giovanni Robbiano, a scriptwriter, member of the European Film Academy, who works at Praguee's prestigious FAMU and Sara Fgaier, perhaps Italy's most outstanding film editor who has worked with Pietro Marcello on his extraordinary films as well as with Gianfranco Rosi- the documentary filmmaker who regularly receives main prizes at the most highly regarded film festivals in the world with his fascinating documentaries which leave the feature films far behind in the consideration of juries. As well as working on The Silence of Peleshian, Sara Fgaier has worked on the extraordinary film The Train to Moscow: A Journey to Utopia using found video footage about Italian Communists who travelled to the 1957 World Youth Festival in Moscow and who discovered a world not altogether matching their utopian imagination. Russian jury members include the film director Alyona Polunina whose glimpse of an extraordinary middle aged Moscovite Varya who set off on a voyage through Ukraine meeting what should have been her 'enemies' lit up the audience at least year's festival with an tempestuous discussion. The film was then to find itself in censorship problems with the Minister of Culture refusing it a license. One of Russia's most interesting critics (not just of film) and journalists Mikhail Rathaus will also serve in a jury as will Georgiy Molodtsov one of the real 'movers and shakers' in Russian documentary film and a curator of the superb documentary programme of the Moscow International Film Festival.

Sara Fgaier, one of Italy's best film editors who has worked with Gianfranco Rosi and Pietro Marcello.

The opening film of the festival to be shown on May 19th will be the Latvian film Ruch and Norie - an splendid film on cross-cultural communication which talks of the encounter of two exotic worlds: that of a young Japanese anthropologist and a grey-haired granny Ruch from a small ethnic community in Latvia. The director Inara Kolmane won many national awards for her film and has become a real star in Latvia cinema. The closing and awards ceremony will take place on the 24th May. These will both take place at the Cinema October on the Noviy Arbat.  



Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Untapped Significance of Russian Documentary Film.


A still from Elena Demidova's film about Gazprom workers Men's Choice. 

A few days ago there appeared on one of the most interesting English-language blogs on Russia (Sean's Russia Blog) an interview with the Russian documentary film-maker, Elena Demidova. An interview that I'd very much encourage people to read - whether they are curious about Russia or film critics. Apart from being one of the most interesting places to go for a real, concrete analysis of what is actually happening in Russia (I'd add two great more politically engaged blogs here: the Russian Reader and People and Nature), Sean Guillory's blog has now thrown a rare spotlight on one of those immense and almost entirely untapped sources which could provide people outside of Russia with a way to resist that poverty of imagination when it comes to 'picturing Russia'.

Indeed how many articles and analyses will the 'informed Russia watcher' have read about Gazprom without ever imagining for one moment what the life of a worker at one of its oil or gas fields is actually like. As Guillory argues in his introduction to the interview the viewing of a documentary film like Demidova's opens up our visions all too often narrowed by the turgid commentary of yet another newspaper article fitting into the same narrow field of vision which we are accustomed to. Instead a documentary film like Men's Choice gives us a new opportunity to imagine from an original perspective:

What I saw was something outsiders rarely hear about Russia—the lives of the thousands of people, mostly men, who travel extraordinary distances to Russia’s far north to work in the natural gas fields. These men work on rotations—a month of constant work on, and a month back home. This labor forces them to be separated from their families for long periods of time. Why do they do it? For money, quite simply. Working at Russia’s vast gas fields is far more lucrative than the work available in the small towns and villages many of these men hail from.
I found Men’s Choice fascinating for its human touch against the backdrop of hard labor and a harsh environment.
In fact many of Demidova's films allow us to peer through into life lived which has been denied us by so much 'Russia discourse'. Whether they concentrate on Lesha's tour of his burnt out village to highlight the forest fires in the summer of 2010 or the couple resisting eviction from their khruschevka flat (a typical 5-storey building built in the Khruschev era and symbolic of what is now seen as poor quality housing) in Sasha, Lena and the Iron Dragon, her films give that kind of insight into the texture of people's lived lives. Portraits that break against the hierarchy of classification and deny those 'fixed images' through which a view of Russia is imposed.


A still from Demidova's  Sasha, Lena and the Iron Dragon

It is the rare newspaper which will even print an article about the ongoing truckers strike in Russia denoting something of the hierarchy of concerns for editors when it comes to Russian news but how can we start to even imagine the life of a long distance trucker in real, concrete detail without having watched Sergei Kachkin's On the Way Home with its intimate portrait of a trucker and his wife as well as an extraordinary sequence of truckers and their radio communications with each other telling us more about life on a Russian road than any mere article could imagine to conjure up.  


The subject of Sergei Kachkin's On the Way Home a long-distance truck driver.

(Here one could equally launch into a passionate defence of other documentary forms when it comes to the truckers strike or other social acts of social resistance whether it be in the extraordinary photos posted in the anattrrra.ru live journal or in Victoria Lomasko's very fine documentary drawings of the truckers discussing and preparing their nationwide strike. How, too, can we imagine the real circumstances of the activity of independent trade unionists without having watched Svetlana Baskova's documentary One solution- resistance (upon which her film For Marx shown at the Berlinale was based)?
What are the hundreds of articles on Boris Nemtsov able to tell in comparison to the extraordinary film portrait by Zosya Rodkevich My Friend Boris Nemtsov shot when Nemtsov was still alive? Or those other documentaries such as Winter, Go Away  allowing us to see a collective portrait of Moscow in a time of political turbulence or those other political portrait films, for example Evegenia Montan'a Ibanez's portrait of the now imprisoned Left Front leader, Sergei Udaltsov, or the Term project by Pivoravov, Kostomarov and Rastorguev in many ways more interesting in its individual sequences than in the finished film. Followed up by their recent Realnost project and their previous experiments in devolving power to the film subjects by letting people shoot films about themselves, the ability to grasp 'Russian reality' politically and socially is within reach. It's just that the opportunity is all too rarely taken up.


A scene from the almanac film on Russia's protest movement of 2011/2 Winter, Go Away
It would be hard in this single post to list the whole gamut of documentaries in Russia and its near abroad worth watching. Yet I hope to start doing this in follow up posts on this and include some interviews with documentary film-makers both here and in other venues such as film journals like the Bright Light Film Journal where I published a general overview of some of the more established figures in the Russian documentary film world. I also hope to discuss the situation surrounding documentary film-making in Russia looking at documentary film festivals such as ArtDocFest and the new and exciting international documentary film festival in Moscow DOKer which developed out of a project to bring both Russian and world documentary to the Russian public (and not just to Moscow's but throughout the whole of the country). The institutional set up will also not be ignored, although it is pleasantly surprising how the desperately inane activities of Russia's Ministry of Culture in trying to dictate documentary norms have not been as successful as it hopes. 


The poster for the 2016 2nd DOKer Film festival to take place in the Spring

Indeed, the inanity and short-sightedness is not restricted just to Russia's Ministry of Culture. One's scepticism could and should extend to the inadequacy of documentary establishments outside Russia. I have written elsewhere about the 'splendid isolationism' of the British press and film critics when it comes to foreign language film. Maybe it is necessary to talk, too, about the myopia of some of those who have the ability to change things in the documentary scene itself outside of Russia. I recall a visit by Nick Fraser of BBC's Storyville to Russia's Moscow Business Square in 2014 to judge some promising new documentaries being pitched there. It seemed to me that Fraser failed to appreciate the particular world of Russian documentary. It was, for example, French television which had the sense to acknowledge the force, relevance and innovatory approach of Anna Moiseenko's documentary Abdul Ballade about a Tajik folk singer and migrant who composed ballads about his daily life in Moscow even though this and many other films of considerable interest were first pitched to the phlegmatic Fraser. Just one of the examples as to how myopia from those who could change things regarding the reception of Russian documentaries in Britain prevent them from doing so. 


Folksinger and migrant Abdumamad Bekmamadov, the protagonist of Anna Moiseenko's A Migrant's Life
In spite of all the myopia of many film commissioners in the UK and elsewhere, there are reasons for hope. These films will in any case be precious documents in years to come. This generation of documentary filmmakers will surely gradually become discovered and rediscovered in time. And the contacts between and the mutual influences of documentary filmmakers between Russian and elsewhere have already brought many fruits. A process of miscegenation is already happily underway. Films like Marco Raffaini's Italiani Veri (on the emergence of Italian light music in the Soviet Union) or the forthcoming Soviet Groove by the Franco-American ensemble of Louis Beaudemont and Alexei Gittelson enable us to look back at Soviet reality with completely unexpected eyes as does the film by the Austro-Russian duo Elena Tikhonova and Dominik Spriztendorfer Elektro Moskva, a fascinating essayistic documentary on the Soviet electronic age and its legacy as well as the larger than life figure of Leon Theremin. Russian documentarists, too, have given some fascinating portraits of foreign societies. Victor Kossakovsky and his students Spanish film ballet Demonstration is one of the most extraordinary films on popular unrest and strikes to have been made in recent years. 


A scene from Elektro Moskva

All this may go past the heads of Britain's semi-ignorant film establishment (though there are some fine exceptions among independent British film critics such as Neil Young and Michael Pattison very much open to the aesthetic lure and significance of the art documentary from this part of the world) but sooner or later future historians, as well as future film scholars, will be making their rediscoveries both of these films and of their priceless value as both documents of their time and as film documentaries in their own right.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Apparatus, a new online journal on Film, Media and Digital Culture in Central and Eastern Europe.


A new international research journal has just been launched which will be focused on film, media and digital culture and is focused on Central and Eastern Europe (that is much of the Post-Soviet space). The first issue of this bi-annual journal is now online, open to access for all- academics, interested journalists as well as film buffs interested in this area of the world. Unlike some other online titles it is truly looking for an international and multi-lingual audience. The articles can be in any of the languages spoken in Central and Eastern Europe as well as English (and indeed in the first issue articles are in four different languages: German, Ukrainian, Russian and English) and the website as a whole is trilingual: in German, Russian and English. Twelve authors were engaged in writing four peer reviewed articles, five reviews and an editorial and their geographical spread is also fairly wide: Austria, Croatia, Germany, Russia, Sweden, UK and the US just as the geographical spread of the subjects involved. There is a core editorial team of four including Natascha Drubek as Editor in Chief, Irina Schulzki as Review Sections Editor and Mario Slugan who is the Managing Editor. Among its Editorial Board are names very well-known to those interested in Soviet and Post-Soviet Cinema and a mark of true quality of thought including Naum Kleiman and Oleg Aronson as well as Vladimir Padunov from Pittsburg.

This is its official launch statement by the editorial team:

Dear colleagues and friends!

The editorial team of the international research journal APPARATUS is pleased to announce its launch and the release of its first issue.

APPARATUS is a peer-reviewed online journal focused on film, media and digital cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. The main aim of the editorial team is to keep abreast with the practice of the leading international research periodicals. Our basic editorial principles are:

OPEN ACCESS the journal is freely available online ensuring maximum accessibility and international dissemination of journal content

DOUBLE BLIND PEER REVIEW all articles undergo a double blind peer review process

The novelty of the journal consists in its MULTI-LINGUAL CONTENT
articles and reviews are published in different languages,
including those used in the regions the journal focuses on,

as well as in its MULTIMEDIA FORMAT the electronic publication allows contributors to insert not only figures and links,
but also audio- and video-files directly within texts.

APPARATUS is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and hosted by the Free University of Berlin. Long-term storage of published materials is ensured by the German National Library.

The initiator and chief-editor of the journal is Dr. Natascha Drubek. The international Editorial Board includes leading scholars, archivists, curators and artists in the field of media research of Central and Eastern Europe. Apparatus accepts both unsolicited and solicited submissions. The journal is published twice a year either as an open call issue or a special issue.

You can find out more about the content of the site in English, German or Russian, read the first issue and submit applications on:

www.apparatusjournal.net

The journal also has a page on Facebook which one can like and on which articles for the journal as well as other articles on relevant subject matter will be posted:

https://www.facebook.com/apparatusjournal?fref=nf

The articles published in the first issue include articles on Vertov's and Medvedkin's Film Trains and Agit Steamers of the 1920 and 30s. The next article is a much more theoretical article in Ukrainian on the difference between the use of the terms 'apparatus' and 'dispositif' (introduced by Jean-Louis Baudry in the 1970s) and how drawing a distinction between the two concepts may help us to analyse such a film like Parjanov 'The Shadow of Forgotten Ancestors' or Leonid Lukov's early post-war second part of 'A Great Life'. Other articles cover art rather than film as such with Inke Arns comparing Moscow's Collective Actions Group with Poland's Kwiekulik. Mark Lipovetsky then discusses how Pussy Riot laid bare both neo-traditionalist discourse but also the underlying hypocrisy of some of the liberal opposition. He locates the actual performances as a cultural return to and rebirth of the 'trickster trope' which was powerful in the Soviet period but declined in post-Soviet times. Then come the reviews of books (including one of Evgenii Margolit's vital 'The Living and the Dead: Notes on the History of Soviet Cinema 1920s-1960s as well as Philip Cavendish's fine book on 1920s Soviet cinematography).

A final review article is devoted to the Festival of Archive Film Belye Stolby by Georgii Borodin, the great animation specialist of the old Musei Kino team.

A great start to what promises to be a fine new venture in international research on a whole number of original topics in this growing field.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

DOKer 2015: the birth of a major new international documentary film festival in Russia.

2015 so far has been one of the most difficult and depressing years for Russian cinema and especially for Russian film festivals. The starving of funds to some of the very best film festivals in Russia such as the 2morrow/завтра film festival or the Art Doc Fest which had its government funding taken from it by Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, in one of those demonstrations of the assertion of bureaucratic and political control of which there have been many in the past two or three years. A similar threat to the Vologda International Film Festival (VOICES), (a festival which screens independent European cinema) has been only partially avoided. So while news over the past year has been generally negative, seeing existential threats to high-quality and well-established film festivals, there now seems to be at least one silver lining in this gloomy atmosphere. This is represented by the emergence of a new major documentary film festival from a team who have for the past four years taken documentary films from throughout the world to Moscow and the Russian regions. The team behind the Doker project consisting mainly of Irina Shatalova, Igor Morozov and Nastia Tarasova, producers and directors of documentary films, have since 2011 organised 300 screenings of non-feature films throughout Russia. This project, moreover, has finally led to a full-blown festival in which the links built up over the past years have ensured that it has a truly international feel to it. The festival will screen 45 films from 32 countries and five continents. The films will come from far and wide: from Belgium to Afghanistan, from Argentina to South Africa.


Victor Kossakovsky, described by Robert Greene as 'one of the greatest documentarians alive', will head the Main Competition Jury.

The jury too will be composed of an almost entirely international team. Apart from Victor Kossakovsky who many see as Russia's greatest living documentary film-maker and even according to one account 'one of the greatest documentarians alive'  (and who will head the main competition jury) and the Russian director, screenwriter and producer, Alexei Vakhrushev (who will be part of the shorts jury) all other members are from outside Russia. Greece is represented by the film critic Vassilis Economou who has reported from a number of A-list festivals and who writes for a number of film sites, the USA  by Anna Nieman, Poland (the camera operator Mateusz Skalski who was took the award for best camera work at the Krakow International Festival), the Danish cinema scholar Tue Steen Muller, Slovakia (Peter Kerekes, the producer of the irreverent documentary film Velvet Terrorists and the Portuguese producer Pedro Fernandes Duarte.

The festival run completely independently and on a shoe string will consist of three programmes: a main competition programme, a shorts programme and a special programme entitled "Cinema in Cinema" which will include films on the shooting process of films as well as about film directors. The opening film will be the South African film Calabash on the first ever football World Cup to be held in an African country:


The festival will take place in two stages. The first stage will be from Friday this week to Tuesday next week  (May 22nd to May 26th) where all the films will be shown at the DomZhur cinema near Moscow's Arbat. In September there will be repeat screenings of the winners and award ceremony. The organisers have announced a crowd funding campaign for the festival, the link to which can be found here: httt://planeta.ru/campaigns/doker2015

Free tickets to the screenings can be booked here: doker.timepad.ru and more information can be found on the festival site here: www.midff.com


Sunday, 3 May 2015

A Boris Barnet Project.


A book on Boris Barnet now seems to be a long abandoned project of mine: it has even been some time since I’ve re-watched a Barnet film. Yet while the idea refuses to leave me there has been always one issue that tormented me: 
How to deal with the weightlessness of Barnet?



If I'm not mistaken Evgenii Margolit once suggested that Eisenstein and Barnet could be seen as the two forces (maybe constellations?) in early Soviet cinema which pulsate and attract different, if not opposing, forces. …  yet while Eisenstein left a seemingly endless trail behind him of written documents which give witness to almost every thought process of his imaginable and so help illuminate his creations, Barnet left almost no documents behind him but his films.

How then to work with this silence of his? Compared to the verbosity of Eisenstein and the relative verbosity of those such as Pudovkin, Kuleshov, Dovzhenko etc who left many written accounts (even if not such detailed ones as Eisenstein), Barnet's reticence feels unbearable for any would-be author on a book about him? What could such a book look like?  


Maybe there is one solution. To turn a Barnet project into something that would illuminate not simply his cinema but the time in which he lived.

There, of course, is still the chance of writing a good cinematic account of each of his films attempting to look at them from the cinematic context of the time as well as his place in Soviet film and world cinema. Fascinating things would emerge if one looks at Barnet in the context of, for example, French poetic realism and exploring Barnet’s relation to his contemporary Soviet colleagues. Yet writing about Barnet could include much more than a cinematic account. 


Maybe one can see what one can learn from an anthropological viewpoint, from a sociological viewpoint, from literary studies, a studies of gestures, city studies, fashion studies and then try to recreate Barnet's films from all this. Yet all too often this approach is one that often kills the object of study by dissecting cinema from fashionable scientific approaches rather than the films still themselves remaining obscure objects of desire.


If almost anything could illuminate Barnet, maybe his films too can illuminate a whole universe of social relations in the first four decades of the Soviet Union. In a very different way than from the films of Eisenstein. Thankfully Soviet cinema had both Eisenstein the cerebral genius and Barnet the intuitional one: well clearly it's not that simple, but... While Eisenstein often seems like a sun that blackens out all other planets (Pudovkin, for example) there is a sense in which Barnet managed to transfer himself to another solar system so that doesn't need to be seen to be in any competition with Eisenstein. 

So perhaps there are things that one can learn from Barnet that one can’t possibly learn from Eisenstein and this resides in his more direct link to the mores and social reality of his time and to Soviet byt than Eisenstein does. A study of Barnet can thus be more a study of his time than a study of Eisenstein might be. 



I have often thought how just as a reading of Baudelaire led to Benjamin’s Arcades Project, a Barnet project could also develop infinitely into some comparable project of the Soviet times in which he made his films. 

Here are some of the folder names ready into which endless notes can be written: 

Red Pinkertonism, chemical/biological warfare paranoia in the Soviet 20’s (Miss Mend); 

Virgin Lands (Alyonka); 

the kvartirny vopros (Girl with a Hatbox and House on Trubnaya); 
amateur theatres in the Soviet twenties (House on Trubnaya); 
poetic/artistic disputes after the revolution; the poet Bagritsky; Odessa in the aftermath of the Revolution (Poet)
the history of the Russian and Soviet circus (The wrestler and the clown)
love triangles and the personal and the political (By the Bluest of Seas; Bountiful Summer);

Barnet as the poet of weariness (The Old Jockey, Whistlestop);

The emotional scenario (By the Bluest of Seas).
The spy thriller (Exploits of an intelligence agent) etc, etc.

Then there's the relatively unexplored worlds of the Mezhrabpom Studios and the lack of English-language studies of lyric comedies in Soviet film (if it were not for Barnet would there have emerged a Danelia or a Ioselliani? and what of the direct influence that Barnet exercised on his assistants Khutsiev and Gaidai who worked with him on Liana?).

Then there would have to be lengthy folders on everyone Barnet worked with: from scriptwriters to actors and cameramen: Shershenevich, Erdman (or to be more the Erdman’s as he worked with three of the family), Garin, Rodchenko, the émigrés- Otsep, Anna Sten etc as well as the story of Koval'-Samborsky who after acting in Barnet's early films left the Soviet Union, was an emigre, then fled the Nazis and was then sent into exile before his rehabilitation and reappearance in Barnet's Poet, the established Soviet actors  eg Nikolai Kriuchkov. The various theatres and directors from which Barnet poached his actors etc. (Protazanov; and the Meyerkhold, MKhAT actors etc)   



These are just some of the folders that come to mind when developing a Barnet study and surely these would just grow and grow. So this Barnet project is not going to be in book form any time soon...

Monday, 30 March 2015

Prince Lemon's (aka the Emperor of Bananas) hostile takeover of Russian theatre!



Living in Russia in 2014-2015 and trying in some way to make sense of what is happening in Russian culture feels like a daily battle for sanity. That once famous catchphrase that the lunatics were taking over the asylum doesn't feel radical enough somehow. Attempting to describe the sense of absolute impotence at the spectacle of the takeover of the Cinema Museum by a band of barely competent, ideologically-correct tools (patriotic and Orthodox hammers) is one of those moments when writing a detailed account almost feels like a kind of self-harm. How could all of this have actually happened? And was there really so little resistance? No permanent general strike by cultural workers? The story surrounding the Tannhauser production in Novosibirsk is also developing into another cause celebre which seems to signal yet another nail in the coffin for independent culture and illuminates one more stage in this story of culture wars going on since early 2000 between moralists (whether of church or state- and they are often the same) and independent artists that came to the fore so dramatically with the trashing of the Beware Religion exhibition at the Sakharov Centre in 2003.


The latest stage in this saga could be deemed as the one in Prince Lemon took over the theatre (if you know your Gianni Rodari as many Russians do, or at least used to do). Prince Lemon today has arisen in the form of a former 'Emperor of Bananas' who goes by the name of Vladimir Kekhman. Having controlled the import of one third of the bananas which were brought into Russia in the 1990s and playing, in general, a not insignificant role in the development of Post-Soviet Russian capitalism he decided like Bulgakov's (or rather Gaidai's) Ivan Vasilievich that he wanted a change of profession. So the oligarch has in recent years turned ballet and theatre director. I'm not sure if history is very replete with this type of metamorphosis. Somehow I doubt it. Though I've always been intrigued by the fact that Silvio Berlusconi was said to have written a preface to a new edition of Erasmus's In Praise of Folly (I've still yet to get my hands on a copy of his actual text). Kekhman seems to be just as mired as Berlusconi in some very dubious business practices (if one knows Russian one could listen to this small item on Russia's independent Dozhd' television channel) and managed to find a typically British legal loophole to avoid any of the irritating trials that his Italian counterpart has been intermittently subject to. But instead of searching for political power to cover up his misdeeds he and others in the Russian elite are attempting the route of cultural domination.

Vladimir Kekhman, the former Banana Emperor, who has taken over the Novosibirsk Theatre of Opera and Ballet
From the import of bananas to the director of a major Russian theatre is not such a large step in contemporary Russia even if you have a few fraud problems with Russia's state bank. It seems that the trick is simple: supply a suitably patriotic or moralist quote for a Ministry of Culture website denouncing the blasphemous nature of a slightly ose' theatre production and, hey presto, you even get to bag the director's job a few days later. Here's the quote that Kekhman produced denouncing the Tannhauser production in Novosibirsk:

As a believer who has been christened in the Orthodox faith, and as a Jew, I take this [production] as an insult. It is a demonstration of internal godlessness in the style and in the spirit of a union of warring infidels. I won’t hide that I spoke today with Mezdrich and he told me that he won’t abandon this production and will stand to the end. I consider that he must resign and that this production must be removed from the repertoire.”

And soon enough a new job in the theatre world was coming the way of the banana emperor and this major new 'force' in the field of Russian culture. Prince Lemon (who Kekhman actually played in one of his own productions), it seems, in today's Russian post-Soviet form of oligarchic capitalism, wishes to direct theatres as well as selling bananas and real estate:

The grotesque figures directing and controlling culture in contemporary Russia - from Medinsky to Kekhman, - and those religious authorities like the Metropolitan Tikhon's, and assorted Chaplin's (along with the performances of the religious activists such as Enteo) who stir moral panics against any original artistic production not to their liking, is not (yet) the only story in town when it comes to Russian culture but it feels as though their aggressive and increasingly repressive bombardment of independent artists in Russia is reaching heights that feel vertiginous.

It appears that they won't be content until some form of 'moral control' is exercised at all levels of theatrical production. Reported comments from a high-level official in Putin's administration, Magomedsalam Magomedov, suggests that the state now wants to control theatre production before it gets into the repertoire. Moreover, with his dangerous talk of only showing productions which 'unite people rather than those that divide them' is quite clear that the state officials and the economic elites are interested in using the arts once again as a mobilizing tool in society promoting its own version of patriotic fervour.Whether the resistance of the theatrical and other artistic communities can amount to something real is yet to be seen. The public statements of support by people like Mark Zakharov are welcome as is the very public call from the independently-minded Russian Film-Makers Union to call for the reinstatement of Boris Maezdrich and the resignation of Vladimir Medinsky. How the cultural bureaucrats will react this latest act of apparent insubordination remains to be seen.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Sergei Eisenstein and Don Quixote


For readers of this blog who don't read Spanish here is my attempt to summarize an interview with Naum Kleiman by Tatiana Pigiarova published here. Tatiana describes how in the rooms where Eisenstein's widow lived after the death of Russia's greatest film director amid the personal objects of Eisenstein - the Bauhaus furniture and the Mexican carpets can be spotted the figure of Eisenstein dressed up as Don Quijote mounted upon a movie camera which stands in for Rocinante.

Eisenstein's interest in Spain was multi-faceted. In his memoirs he spoke of Meyerhold's production of Calderon de la Barca's play El Principe Constante (The Constant Prince), the Spanish Baroque of Picasso and El Greco which was more of an inspiration to him than Italian Baroque- in fact he would write an article entitled El Greco and Film. Besides all this there was a script for a film entitled Spain set in Spain during the Civil War.

The puppet figure of Eisenstein as Don Quijote which was made by some artists for the Eisenstein Museum to commemorate the fact that Eisenstein was part of a short film where he took on the role of Don Quixote during a Congress of Independent Cinema in September 1929 (the first film festival in history). The avant-garde filmmakers from all of Europe (as well as from America and Japan) met in Switzerland at the Sarraz Castle invited by Helene de Mandrot, the owner of the castle and an art enthusiast. Eisenstein, Alexandrov and Tisse were in Germany at the time waiting for their visas to get to Hollywood and decided to join the other film-makers there. So as well as the future General Line (or The Old and the New) Bunuel's Le Chien d'Andalou were projected. Bunuel himself was expected but didn't turn up. And between jokes and discussions the participants decided to shoot a film at the festival. The idea for the film was inspired by Eisenstein and Hans Richter: the struggle between the independents and the 'great names'. 

They were aided by the French critic and author of a book on Eisenstein, Leon Moussinac (dressed as Artagnan) and Jean-George Auriol, the editor of the Revue du Cinema who, using typewriters at the Congress as machine guns launched an attack behind banners made from journals. These two quickly developed the script of this work which entered cinematic history as The Storming of La Sarraz and was also directed by these critics. Tisse' filmed it with his camera and the castle stuffed with medieval relics acted as the set. Madamoiselle Bouissounouse from the Revue du Cinema with a white dress and reels of film around her bust  and fastened by chains to the castle was to incarnate Independent Cinema. Her defender, the caballero Don Quixote (interpreted by Eisenstein) carried his medieval armour, helmet and lance and mounted upon Rocinante, his trustworthy movie camera.

Independent Cinema was to defeat 'Commercial Cinema' impersonated by the Japanese Moitiro Tsutji who was to commit harakiri. Eisenstein recalled that the castle owner was to remember both him and Tisse with fond memories and would repeat to herself a refrain "Ah those Bolsheviks, those Bolsheviks, the only real gentlemen".

Enough proof suggests that this film did exist at one point with certain images having been preserved by the Cinema Museum. Photograms of Jean-George Auriol with his typewriter-machine guns, of Leon Moussinac dressed up as Artganan and Eisenstein in medieval dress playing Don Quixote still exist. It's thought that the film was taken by Hand Richter to London to develop and edit and that possibly it was lost in the train or was confiscated by customs.

The story of Eisenstein and Don Quixote didn't stop there and in fact Eisenstein had been approached by Feodor Schialapin to make an adaptation of Cervantes novel. However this project was to be realised not by the Soviet director but by Pabst (though still with Schialapin in the main role).

Eisenstein is still present in the film of Don Quixote that was eventually adapted by Grigory Kozintsev in 1957  through the influence of the 19th century caricaturist and painter Honore Daumier. Eisenstein's wife Pera Atasheva was to donate to Kozintsev several books and reproductions of Daumier which had belonged to Eisenstein. One such reproduction was to hang in Kozintsev's office and through Eisenstein would influence the aesthetic of Kozintsev's 1957 film adaptation of Cervantes' novel. (Eisenstein's script Spain also found its way into his film Alexander Nevski). 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

2morrow/Завтра- a rare oasis of hope for the independent Russian film world.


One of Russia's most interesting and original film festivals is being held this week at the Museum of Moscow and the Centre of Documentary Film. Like many of the more creative festivals in Russia it has been deprived of public funding relying instead on a crowdfunding campaign to survive. Founded by the late film director Ivan Dykhovichny in 2007, the festival has been run by his widow Olga Dykhovichnaya since his death in 2009. It is one of the rare chances to watch a wide range of art house films that are rarely shown in Russian cinemas anymore. If the larger festivals in Russia (such as the annual Moscow International Film Festival) attempt to reach an audience for what they call the 'art mainstream', this festival is much more daring in its programming presenting viewers with a chance of seeing more rarely noted films as well as films that have won major prizes in all the major international film festivals but which no longer get distribution in a Russian market steadily closing itself to everything but Hollywood and Russian national blockbusters and with a Russian cultural ministry intent on uprooting and destroying cultural originality in any and every way it can. In this context this film festival is a rare oasis of hope in an increasingly depressing moment for independent film in Russian subject to both political and economic strangulation.

Olga Dykhovichnaya, festival director of 2morrow/Завтра

While 2morrow/Завтра doesn't concentrate on Russian cinema - it does have the occasional programme which do present the festival goer with an opportunity to watch some Russian (or post-Soviet) films that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to see. The Offside programme showcases Russian regional cinema and this year a part of this programme includes films made by students of Alexander Sokurov at the Kabardino-Balkarsky State University.

It has, moreover, a number of other films that should be of interest to readers of this blog including a Latvian documentary film 'Escaping Riga' comparing the fates of two famous figures who 'escaped Riga': the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the film-maker Sergei Eisenstein and who chose very different paths and ideals. I hope to give some account of this film by David Simanis for this blog.

One of the real highlights of this festival, though, is a programme which while not connected directly to the Post-Soviet space deserves a special mention. One of the most interesting film curators operating in Russia today, Kirill Adibekov, has managed to convince the Dutch Embassy to help out with bringing the films of two extraordinary Dutch filmmakers - Frans van der Staak and Johnan van der Keuken - to the festival. Adibekov was the curator of the excellent parallel retrospective of Artur Aristaskisyan and Pedro Costa- one of the highlights of the 2013 festival and continues to delight in this festival with another highly original and quite brilliant choice. For those able to read Russian here is an interview with Adibekov giving us an insight as to why this occasion to see films by these two Dutch film-makers is such a unique one.

Film curator Kirill Adibekov

(Some reviews of the films at this festival will appear here in coming days).

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Articles published elsewhere: (1) On Lyubov Arkus's Anton's Right Here


This article was originally published for the Calvert Journal on April 30, 2013
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A film critic turned director may have been a common feature in the 1960s French New Wave but in contemporary Russia the case of Liubov Arkus is somewhat unique. One of Russia’s most established critics for the leading film journal Séance, Arkus has managed to create a new form of social documentary in Anton’s Right Here and by doing so she brings Dziga Vertov’s vision of the camera as an instrument of liberation one step closer to realization. Arkus explained that she made the film not thinking about it as a documentary and related to the protagonists not as documentary subjects but “as people who were close to me”. Arkus met Anton Kharitonov, a young autistic boy, after reading his text People- part of a compilation of writings by autistic children that she discovered when editing a copy of Séance. Anton and his family were to become close friends of the whole Séance collective. The film would arise more out of chance and necessity than design taking over four years to complete.

Arkus makes no attempt to whitewash the harsh reality for Anton and other autistic children in Russia in the film and her narration of Anton’s Dantesque trip through the hell of institutions all too ready to abandon the weak and vulnerable is as powerful an indictment as there could conceivably be.  In a scene where Anton’s choices become so bleak Arkus is constrained to abduct Anton from one institution thus precariously stepping beyond the boundaries which documentarists normally permit themselves.  Her film, though, is not dominated by this sense of bleakness and indignation and avoids pointing moralistic fingers at anyone in particular. The transformation of his father’s attitude towards Anton inspired by his viewing of footage from this film is a masterly scene in which the film reflects on the cameras powers to transform reality. Arkus also intervenes in the film with her personal tale of suffering abandonment as child of a victim of repression and transforming once again the relations between documentarist and subject once more steps into precarious territory. However, in this way Anton’s condition becomes shared and universalized bringing us back to that central and unresolved theme of 1960s cinema – the theme of communicability present in films of auteur filmmakers such as Antonioni, Herzog and the Soviet filmmaker Khutsiev.


This film, however, does not take the rather well-worn route of the old-style social documentary in which the director observes and retells the life of the protagonist in order simply to generate either indignation or pity. Indeed such a subject matter confronts the documentary film-maker with a highly significant ethical dilemma. Sergei Dvortsevoy, one of the great documentary film-makers of the early 1990s, would eventually move into feature films because, in his words, “the worse it is for the subject of the documentary, the better it is for the film maker”. Arkus, however, resolved this dilemma and directed a film confounding many of the accepted rules of documentary film making.
It was one of Russia’s most innovative documentary helmers, Alexander Rastorguev, who helped Arkus understand the necessity of playing by different rules. In 2008 Arkus published Rastorguev’s “Natural Cinema” manifesto in Séance. Here he claimed that documentary cinema had died and could only regain meaning when film became what he called “ontological action”, “reaching the core of suffering  transforming life”.  The ideas in Rastorguev’s manifesto “impressed me enormously” Arkus told me in an interview in early January. Two other people were instrumental in helping Arkus realize this vision of “natural cinema”:- one was the cameraman, Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev, and the other was Anton himself who, in the words of film scholar Yuri Tsivian, had almost become Arkus’s co-director (an opinion that Arkus shared).

Cameraman Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev

Arkus explained how it was Alisher who took on the role of the helmer at the start of the shooting process while she was “learning from him”, given that it was her first film. At the beginning she “didn’t even look into the viewfinder”, but by the final two shooting periods she was firmly in the director’s seat.  For Arkus, Alisher had the ability to portray “the very core of the human being rather than simply the human face or profile”- an ability which, Khamidkhodzhaev states, was influenced by the cinema of Sokurov and Pasolini.


Arkus explained the unique role of Anton in the film-making process: “it was very much his relationship to the world and to others- to his mother and me – and his strength which defined the film and powerfully drove the plot of the film forward. One should not forget either his very strong charisma as well as his (what Arkus calls) ‘cinegenia’”. His refusal to accept less than genuine love from those around him be they his father or the carers in the, albeit very liberal and westernised, Svetlana institution, surely manifest his extraordinary willpower.

The protagonists, Arkus explained “became documentary subjects only at the editing stage when after shooting an immense amount of material it was necessary to develop a clear plot for the film”. The most difficult stage of the film, for Arkus, was the editing process. Five hundred hours of material had been shot and although it was shot in an ‘observational’ style, it was edited like a novel (according to her “a novel written before the modernist period and in the post-modernist vein”). This divergence between the shooting process and the composition of the storyline comprised the greatest difficulty for her. “Numerous options were made before I came to the difficult decision to tell the story in the first person”.  In many ways, too, the camera had become Anton’s substitute for the pen with which he could write a new text about himself. The last scene where Anton is given the camera to shoot the final shot makes this explicit.


This film has something very rare and powerful to say by tying autism and cinema together as equally being wrapped up in a struggle to communicate the incommunicable. This film has transformed social documentary as a genre here with the aesthetic and the ethical working symbiotically, bringing into question clear distinctions between the observed and observer, the director and protagonist while the camera loses its cold distance becoming an instrument for profound reflection, communication and even liberation. Anton’s Right Here may not be a film that vaunts its formal experimentation in the way that some of the films of Kossakovsky (one of Russia’s most extraordinary documentarists) do but it does manage to display new territories of human nature hitherto only partially revealed. 

Reflections on 2014 in the world of film and Renaming the blog.

A still from Valentyn Vasyanovych's Crepuscule one of the films that captured the potential of a revival of film in the post-Soviet space.
When I first started this blog over five years ago I gave little real thought to the title of the blog but this year I have finally decided to change it. Back in 2009 my blog was nothing more than a jotting down of a personal diary of my film going as well as some things I had been reading on film (and the title was something I had thought up on the spur of the moment). Since so many of my favourite films and filmmakers discovered in Moscow can not in any way be described as Russian- to name but a few Sergei Parajanov, Otar Ioselliani, Kira Muratova, Aleksandr Dovzhenko - I thought it better to extend this blog explicitly to the whole of the former Soviet space (and even occasionally beyond). An oversight in 2009 is much less defensible in 2015. How to write, for example, about Ukrainian films in a blog on 'Russian film' without falling into justifiable accusations of a form of (post) colonial prejudice? One more consideration of this renaming is that I hope to extend the scope of this blog to include articles on other visual arts too (and also to literature, music and even philosophy).It's rather difficult to find an all-encompassing term but post-Soviet tries in as many ways as possible to encompass both history and the present.

2014 hasn't been a particularly active year for me in so far as film-going has been concerned. I only managed the Moscow and Odessa Film Festivals (and missed the Art Doc Fest and much else besides). Living in Russia in the winter and early spring and then in the summer gave me a sense of the atmosphere of this 'infernal year'. Travelling from Moscow to Odessa in July and spending ten days in that city also gave me a very brief chance to attempt to gauge the atmosphere in that city during the period both before and after the downing of the Malaysian airline.

There is no easy way of describing the changes in the Russian cinema world (it would be far more difficult to speak of other cinematic worlds in the post-Soviet space) in 2014.Some of the posts published here in 2014 have spoken of the stances of some of those in the film world with regard to the Ukraine. A mixture of solidarity with Ukrainian colleagues, followed by a pro-Putin stance from others, with even some support for the Russian state from some very unlikely quarters. But then even in Ukraine there was not any simple narrative. Odessa at the time of the film festival was still in the midst of patriotic fervour (with audiences standing to attention twice during scenes where Ukraine's hymn was heard in Sergei Loznitsa's Maidan) and yet the words that Kira Muratova spoke to Anton Dolin were far more measured with a restrained sadness at how things had gone.

Russia really does seem to be experiencing the howling winds of winter. Returning to Moscow last week I learned of the events surrounding a showing of a documentary film 'Stronger than arms'. Although there was an audience of only about fifteen at the premises of teatr.doc (and three or four of this audience reportedly turned out to be from the security services). After about a minute into the showing a whole ensemble of characters from different state and municipal 'services' would turn up including police, bomb disposal officers, fire and other emergency services, plain clothes security personnel, municipal officers and even personnel from the Ministry of Culture. The whole building was to be evacuated only after 45 minutes (it was even rumoured that security and Mincult officials were watching the film in the meantime while they had evicted the film goers to the streets 'cordially inviting' them for a trip to the police station. Organisers were summonsed and interrogated the next day at the Ministry of Culture and the audience after eviction found themselves harassed by a woman journalist from the state NTV channel who had turned up with all the officials asking them what they thought of the film that they were prevented from watching. A tragic farce of what happens when you watch the 'wrong kind of documentary' in Russia at the end of 2014. Here is a sample of that night's events that was captured on camera:


Of the events that I missed were this years Art Doc Fest which is another subject in its own right given that the Minister of Culture stated that this festival - widely seen as the best documentary film festival in the whole of Russia - would no longer be receiving any public funding given the anti-governmental statements of the its director, Vitaly Mansky. Another indication that the tightening of the screws in the Russian cultural sphere is going full speed ahead.

Perhaps the biggest scandal of the year is that which has happened around the Cinema Museum. One of Russia's and the world's most respected film scholars, Naum Kleiman, and his professional team were evicted by Kremlin loyalists in an attempt to finally destroy any remaining hopes of the resurrection of one of the most important institutions in Russian cinema today. Conservative nationalism in this sphere has done its utmost to sever all ties to the outside world in a way that reeks of late Stalinist autarky in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The story of the Scientific Research Institute of Cinematic Art led by Nikolai Izvolov has been less widely reported but is yet another indication that Medinsky and his cronies are launching a full onslaught on cinematic memory to eviscerate anything not fulfilling his ideological (conservative nationalism) goals. In terminology so beloved of these ideologues one feels at times to be confronting some form of cultural genocide (meted out by those very figures intent on proudly acclaiming themselves as defenders of Russian culture. All the Medinskyites seem to want to offer is a trash Hollywood-style version of national cinema with a taste of Russian revanchist ideology.

Of course 2014 has not been only this - the crop of films that have been released or seen at Russian and international film festivals have thankfully been impressive. Films by Zvyagintsev, Konchalovsky, Tverdovsky, Kott, Bychkova, Meshchaninova, Nikonova, and even Gai Germanika and Bykov deserve notice from the international film world. Yet is this the last of Russia's "relatively good years" in film as Andrey Plakhov argued in a recent newspaper article? Time will tell but it certainly feels a rather daring task to utter much optimism. Whether in other countries of the post-Soviet space this picture is a different one is hard to tell. From the little I have seen of Ukrainian cinema the picture is a mixed one but it certainly does have some very promising titles, especially in the guise of Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's masterpiece The Tribe as well as Sergei Loznitsa's Maidan. Following in the wake of Kira Muratova's 2013 Eternal Homecoming these two and many more less talked about films such as the rural documentary Crespuscule by Valentyn Vasyanovych as well as Viktoria Trofimenko's Brothers: The Final Confession do suggest that Ukrainian film has some kind of hopeful future. One of the Ukrainian film-makers most to look out for- Maryna Vroda- seems to have been relatively silent for some time although she has come back this year with another short film entitled Snails shown at the Molodist Film festival in Kiev.

Coming back, however, to considerations of the present moment of relations between Ukraine and Russia and their respective film worlds there is no symbol more scandalous than the imprisonment of Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov in a Russian prison. Increasingly forgotten by the media he faces many years in jail. It is on this note I wish to end this article with the wistful conclusion that it is increasingly hard to 'enjoy' film in this part of the world while one of its more promising practitioners is languishing in prison facing what are clearly trumped up charges.



A longer article on reflections on recent events in Russian film will hopefully be published in another venue early in 2015.