Total Pageviews

Sunday, 27 September 2015

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

The logo of the new open-access international research journal on Film, Media and Digital Culture in Central and Eastern Europe, Apparatus.

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:

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:

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://

Free tickets to the screenings can be booked here: and more information can be found on the festival site here:

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
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.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Memories of the Cinema Museum: Boris Nelepo on what Naum Kleiman and his team means to us.

Every few months there seems to be a new twist in the story surrounding Russia's Cinema Museum- and yet each time it seems that the obscenity of the story appears to take on a new level. Going through the details of what has been happening brings on a feeling of nausea. There are just too many reasons to list why, when the history of Russian cinema in the post-Soviet period will be written in decades from now, one will wrack one's head with wonder (and for those of us who lived in this time, with shame) at how Russia's cinematic place in the world had been hampered, trampled on by cultural vandals and bureaucrats and those who did their bidding. Also in the cinema history books there will appear the names of those who heroically, almost single-handedly, helped create something in spite of this. That there were glimmers of a new wave in Russian cinema associated with, for example, Zviagintsev amongst others is due to that period prior to 2005 when there was a functioning Cinema Museum near the metro stop of Krasnopresnenskaya (and figures like Zviagintsev were constant visitors). Musei Kino's role of fomenting a cultural revolution in the heads of many was proving risky. One is almost  driven insane with rage upon hearing pundits stating that the Cinema Museum was only for the intelligentsia. I have never experienced crowds in Russian cinemas such as I experienced in Krasnospresnenskaya the years before Musei Kino was closed. Once the main hall was so packed that I was forced to stand a few inches from the screen because there was simply no room elsewhere (and this was to see a film that was shown many times at the Museum). My attention was drawn today to a text by one of Russia's finest young film critics, Boris Nelepo. Nelepo doesn't write so much about the current situation of the Cinema Museum but gives an excellent account of what the Museum and Naum's team really signified for many thousands of Moscovites and visitors to the city. 

Boris Nelepo

A hand reaches out to another hand. A shot from Godard’s Nouvelle Vague. Godard is inseparable in my memory from the place where I first saw this film. When Musei Kino was closed I had only begun to go there, I was sixteen. From that moment, every time I found myself in a new city the first thing I did was try to find the local cinemateque so as to experience once again those same emotions. In many cities there is not any cinemateque but Moscow is the only place in the world where an authentic Cinema Museum worked for many years and then was liquidated.

Naum Kleiman belongs to a special type of person, one can count them on the fingers of one's hand. Henri Langlois, Jonas Mekas, Joao Benard da Costa. Without them there would have been no cinematography. This is no exaggeration: when Henri Langlois founded the Cinemateque Francaise, few people understood that cinematography was an art form and that it requires preserving. Even at that time an immense number of films had been lost which we can only now know from people’s memories or from archival annotations. Ghost films.

Our Museum of Cinema was one of the best in the world. Again I am not exaggerating: the programmes which Naum Kleiman designed in the 1990s are today difficult to imagine even in New York or Paris. Kleiman and Maxim Pavlov (without whose professionalism and erudition a Cinema Museum would be impossible) even after what seemed to be its destruction demonstrated to us an unique lesson in their irreconcialability to this fact. In those nine years in which the Museum has been deprived of its own home it has undertaken more retrospectives than any national institution and these are always the most interesting, unexpected and thrilling programmes. They haven’t given up. And, alas, all of us without exception are guilty because we haven’t shown the solidarity, we haven’t shown any corresponding daring on our part. It has been precisely this experience of solidarity which could have finally been the trigger for that political will which is necessary to avert catastrophe. For in Russia in the noughties each and every year there appeared (and then quickly disappeared) ambitious cultural projects and festivals whose single budget of any of them would have been sufficient to preserve a sheltered life for the Cinema Museum. Precious time has been lost and this means that one must lose no more time. It is necessary to fight.

Art of the present and of the future is impossible without that of the past. A Museum of Cinema is a take-off point for the existence of a national cinema. If there is no museum then not a single festival or movie theatre will have any meaning without it. Without a Cinema Museum Russia simply will no longer be on the cinematic map of the world. It will become a ghost country for film. 
The original Russian can be found here:   

Naum Kleiman with the Dardenne Brothers.

Many thanks to Boris Nelepo for agreeing to the publication of this piece by him and also for sending a link to the photo of Naum Kleiman with the Dardenne Brothers.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

London City Symphony Film to take Vertov and Rodchenko into Twenty First Century

What promises to be a striking new film entitled London Symphony in an 'old genre' (the city symphony film) is the object of another of the crowd funding reports that I'm blogging about this month. While it doesn't have a Russian theme, it certainly is trying to restore some of the stylistic tropes of the great masterpieces of early Soviet cinema  including the film that topped the Sight and Sound poll for Best Documentaries of all Time, namely Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, and bring them back in the early twenty first century. Of course the city symphony film was never just a Soviet phenomenon and Charles Sheeler's & Paul Strand's 1921 film Manhatta is regarded as one of the earliest examples and Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis film from 1927 are among the important stages which led to the Vertov masterpiece. However, the kind of mutual transnational influences at play in the forging of such a genre can not be ignored: Ruttmann's film is certainly unthinkable without the developments in Soviet montage and, of course, the influences were never entirely in one direction. This city symphony genre (the denomination inspired by Rutthmann's film title and his idea to "create a symphonic film out of the millions of energies that comprise the life of a big city") while highly regarded by film scholars and historians seemed to have been buried. However, an independent film-maker, Alex Barrett whose films have been shown and awarded at many international film festivals has decided to return to this genre inspired in turn by what seems to have been a revival in interest in aspects of 1920's Soviet culture as a whole. Vertov may be the most notable name but it seems quite clear that Rodchenko whose photographs and other art work have been shown at a number of UK exhibitions in recent years also inspires the look of some of the photographs and stills from an early short film which are set to inspire the film.

Rodchenko, of course, worked as artistic director on one of Boris Barnet's lesser known and lesser seen films Moscow in October and so as well as being probably the most well-known photographer of the Soviet Twenties was a force in Soviet cinema in more ways than one (he also, of course, designed some of the most well-known film posters of the period).

So while the film in question will have a UK theme it will undoubtedly have 'Soviet' roots (how else to describe Vertov, perhaps one of the many transnational artists who can not be reduced to the national denominations of these post-Soviet times). It can only be hoped that like other crowd funding campaigns that I have mentioned in previous posts here and here this particular campaign will gain the attention and support that it deserves. A campaign video is available here which describes many of the intentions.

As well as Alex Barrett whose previous film Life Just Is has been described by a Sight and Sound contributor, Brad Stevens, as "one of the most promising debuts in contemporary cinema" there is a strong team. The producer, Katherine Round, is a founder of a leading documentary organization Doc heads and has established Literally Films to produce documentaries which try to push boundaries. The screenwriter Rahim Moledina has made his own short films  and his script Iqbal's Shoes has been selected for BBC Writersroom scriptroom 2013 from 3000 scripts. James McWilliam is the composer and has had a long career in working in film and has worked with some of the leading film composers. The cinematpgrapher will be Peter Harmer.

Some idea of the film can be glimpsed from a short film that Barrett and Moledina made on Hungerford Bridge and gives a flavour of the inspiring aesthetics of the film:

Once again the crowdfunding link is here and it will be running until the middle of October. and the director can be contacted at

(Like the film The Forest In Me I hope to be reporting on the future development of these projects and, in this case, speaking with the director in more detail on the Russian or Soviet film influences on his film).

Friday, 12 September 2014

Isolation in the Siberian Taiga: The Forest In Me by Rebecca Marshall.

There are a whole crop of crowd funding projects which are linked in some way or other to Russia and Russian themes. I'll be exploring and writing on a number of them this month. Some are filmed by UK film-makers in Russia, others are influenced by aspects of Russian or Soviet film-making and others are Russian film projects. I am hoping to post a series of blogs this month on those films which promise to be some of the most interesting projects.

70-year old Agafya Likova who has spent her whole life in isolation in the taiga of the Kemerovo region
The link to the crowd-funding project for The Forest in Me can be found here:

I'm starting off with Rebecca Marshall's The Forest In Me poroject which promises to explore an extraordinary story of an isolated family (and then of a single survivor) who lived so deep in the Siberian taiga that for decades there was literally no contact with the outside world (and even when contact was made the heroine of the film remained in her isolated location rather than relocate).

Rebecca Marshall, the director of the Forest In Me.

Rebecca Marshall will attempt to follow the story of Agafya Lykofa who was born in 1943. Until 1978 they lived in complete isolation from the outside world and were even unaware of the Second World War. Agafya's parents had taken the extreme step of complete internal exile in 1936 after being persecuted for his religious beliefs as an Old Believer. Agafya and a brother were born later and were condemned to battle the harsh winters on their own in a deeply remote part of the Kemerovo region in Western Siberia. A particularly harsh winter had already taken the life of their mother through starvation when in 1978 on a helicopter sortie, a group of geologists spotted a piece of cultivated land which lead to their first visit from the outside world. Shortly after their visit Agafya's three brothers died and Agafya lived alone with her father who also died a decade later. Nonetheless, Agafya still chose isolation in spite of the minus 65 degrees Fahrenheit winters that are sometimes registered in this part of the Kemerovo region.

Marshall intends to explore the life of Agafya not merely through her circumstances but she also intends to explore Agafya's imagination, her dreams and visions through a collection of drawings that Agafya has made to record her own life. The film-maker compares her own personal need to keep records of all aspects of her life linking her to her own past with Agafya's own efforts in preserving her own memory through drawings that she makes. Interestingly the film aims to use Agafya's drawings as a starting point for sections of charcoal animation which will then appear in the film (the animated sequences will be designed by Ana Caro who is known for her work in The Magnificent Lion Boy . 

Art work by Ana Caro for the film, the animator of The Forest in Me. 

Marshall's film is based on a hope that small details of Agafya's life may lead to an understanding of one another and it also will try to answer the question of why individuals feel the need and desire to be understood as individuals. Also Agafya's rejection of integration with the outside world will be an opportunity to explore how her sense of time, faith and identity in her isolation contrast with the film-maker's own experiences in the world of mass communication.

Rebecca Marshall's unique experimental style has been taken note of at film festivals worldwide including such impressive international festivals as Locarno and Creteil. She allows her stories of female characters to visually unfold. This next film of hers aims to pursue an aesthetic close to that of Bela Tarr's film-making while searching to keep the balance between observation and dialogue that Werner Herzog creates in his films. The film-making team is also very impressive. The collaboration of Ana Caro in animated sequences has been mentioned. The soundtrack promises to be a very impressive one given the inclusion of a Russian choir and the pure and wild violin playing of the godfather of anti-folk and former member of Clash, Tymon Dogg. The production team also includes some well-known names in the documentary film world including Mark Johnston from Nomad Films, Nicole Stott from Passion Pictures and Vasilis Chrysanthopolous (a producer with Plays2Place, a new emerging company in the Greek film industry whose recent projects have included Miss Violence.)

Here is the crowd-funding link:

A fund raising video is available on Vimeo here.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Film Theatre of War by Mikhail Trofimenkov: The Revolutionary story of Post-War Cinema.

Mikhail Trofimenkov's book The Film Theatre of War was born about four years ago when he was asked to write an article of about 1,500 words on Cinema and the Algerian War of Independence. Researching into the subject more and more he discovered that this was a subject that couldn't be confined to an article. Instead of the 1,500 words, Trofimenkov discovered that his 'article' had grown fifteen times the length and had become unprintable. The journals loss is our gain now that we have the 650 page book published by the St Petersburg film journal Seance  to read. Trofimenkov had wanted to entitle his book Episodes of the Revolutionary War but, alas, Che Guevara had already picked that title up years before. This will give the potential reader a clue as to why this book by one of Russia's leading film journalists and scholars (thankfully, in Russia at least, the two roles are not always mutually exclusive) is a rather unique contribution to film history. Trofimenkov's achievement lies precisely in uncovering and revealing cinematic history in a way few scholars have managed to previously.

Film history has been the preserve of the academic who is used to think in certain well-defined categories but is rarely given the opportunity to really draw together correlations in the way that Trofimenkov does. So it is easy to imagine a title published in the UK or US entitled Cinema and Imperialism by a respected film academic, but it is almost inconceivable that anything similar to the book in question would have come from the pen of one other than Mikhail Trofimenkov. His book begins in Algeria in 1954 and ends at the end of the 1970s. Indochina, Algeria and French colonialism does take up the whole of Part One of the book but it then travels from land to land and continent to continent revealing a whole Atlantis-like continent of facts and characters in cinema and politics which (and who) have never been in the forefront of any historical account of cinema before. Who knew that in 1970 practically the whole Canadian film industry was arrested on charges of collaborating with terrorists as tanks rolled into Montreal? Historical events like this are on nearly every page of the book and one can't quite believe how the historians of cinema have for so long ignored the angle from which Trofimenkov writes.

Trofimenkov's book is not subsumable under any particular category or genre. He sets the record clear that the history of cinema and the history of imperialism have been parallel histories and that the history of cinema is part and parcel of the history of imperialism yet the heroes and protagonists of the book are those involved resisting these links to create a new cinema and to make cinema politically (rather than to make political cinema). Even if his book doesn't offer strong theoretical viewpoints, it does offer revelations given Trofimenkov's encylopaedic account of the films and characters hitherto hidden from our view by more conventional film historians. One can only surely say that after reading this book our view of Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers will never seem the same again (as it represented the tip of an iceberg in the actual story of cinema and the Algerian anti-colonial struggle). The film, surely, could not have existed or become a classic of world cinema outside the context which Trofimenkov reveals in such painstaking detail. One ends up wanting to track down literally hundreds of films never previously mentioned in world cinema histories but which taken as a whole means that a cinematic history describing the decades of the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s can never be written in the same way ever again.

It is this aspect (as well as uncovering the names of those often martyred in pursuit of their attempt to both document and combat colonialism and post-colonialism) which makes the book such a revealing one as well as a passionate one. Trofimenkov explicitly makes this point in an interview for the journal Afisha:

И, конечно, у меня кроме академического пафоса, когда я ее писал, был и политический азарт. Подогреваемый слышанными со всех сторон либеральными восторгами по поводу Пиночета, Франко, Маннергейма, Хорти

And, of course, for me there was apart from the academic enthusiasm I had when I wrote the book, a certain political fervour. A fervour stoked up when I began to hear all the liberal ecstasy over figures like Pinochet, Franco, Mannerheim and Horty which was so prevalent from all sides.

Trofimenkov's account of how the Pinochet's of this world (so beloved by a certain Russian 'liberal' of the 1990s) not only wreaked repression on a massive scale but also destroyed a whole nations cinematic hopes and heritage (and eventually destroyed the very hope of a liberational cinema by the end of the 1970s) is, arguably, Trofimenkov's unique contribution to world cinema history. His is also a homage to the many figures whose lives were often cut short alongside their hope for this revolutionary third cinema in countries from Algeria to Palestine and from Chile to Canada, from France to Indonesia and Japan and from Italy to Argentina.

Trofimenkov's account is a political history of cinema (rather than a history of political cinema) the likes of which haven't been written before, even by the likes of politicised historians in the vein of Georges Sadoul. As Trofimenkov put it in an interview published in the St Petersburg Times:

“It’s a claim for the future,” Trofimenkov said.

“I see this book as a sketch of several chapters of the yet unwritten political history of cinema. There are many histories of the art of cinema in the world and there are many books about the business of cinema, but a political history does not exist. There are books about single episodes of the interaction between film and politics, say, about the occupation of France or about Nazi propaganda, and a bit about the political cinema of Latin America, but a universal political history of cinema does not exist.”

The 'Guevarian moment' of Trofimenkov's account is that he recounts film not as an historical event and neither does he recount film from the viewpoint of a scholar interested in purely cinematic terms but rather because film becomes the event itself. He writes about film as war and cinema as revolution. As the St Petersburg columnist notes just about all the most courageous and talented protagonists of Trofimekov's book are communists (very often dissident ones- Trotskyist or Anarcho-Communists) and revolutionaries. Trofimenkov's book is, in many ways, a much-needed encomium for revolutionary cinema as well as a lament for the times when revolutionary cinema was still possible before political cinema mutated into the 'humanitarian cinema' of Costa Gavras or Margaret von Trotta.  

Hopefully, it is also a pointer to a future resurrection or rebirth of revolutionary cinema. But in any case it is, perhaps, the most important book on cinema that has been written for some time and not just in Russia. For it not to be translated in many languages as possible would be an oversight of the gravest order.  

Finally, in the interview for the St. Petersburg Times Trofimenkov indicates the direction that he would like to see cinema in Russia take giving the example of Svetlana Baskova's For Marx as a possible pointer:

I have a dream that political film will finally emerge in Russia,” Trofimenkov said. “That’s why I love and support Svetlana Baskova so much. She’s a great director and her most recent film ... is called ‘For Marx…’ It’s an absolutely remarkable film which takes a political stance.

“Repeating the same trajectory of most other political directors, she also shoots an ongoing film without an end by filming workers’ protests. This is cinema, but it’s absolutely the same thing they did in Mexico and Argentina a while ago.