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Russian Film Series Runs Through March, Documentaries Highlighted

Published: March 1, 2012

The Russian Film Series “Russia Through the Documentary Lens” organized by the CSULB Russian Film Club returns to campus for another semester beginning Thursday, March 1.

Last semester’s film series included the 1929 classic “Man with a Video Camera,” 1989’s “Solovky Power” by Marina Goldovskaya and 2006’s “Moscow Freestyle.”

This semester, the series opens on March 1, with the screening of “Svetlana about Svetlana,” a 44-minute 2008 documentary directed by Lana Parshina about the daughter of Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin. Introduced by Russian Studies’ Harold Schefski, the film discusses its subject’s childhood, her mother’s suicide, her doomed brothers Vassily and Yakov and the father seen by the Soviet Union as a “living god.”

The series continues on Thursday, March 8, with a viewing of “The Russian Concept,” a 56-minute documentary directed in 2009 by Igor Sopronenko and introduced by History’s Andrew Jenks. The film explores art created in resistance to the government-imposed style of Socialist Realism from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The series concludes on Thursday, March 15, with the campus debut of “The House with Knights” directed in 1993 by distinguished Russian filmmaker Marina Goldovskaya. The 58-minute film introduced by Geography’s Dmitrii Sidorov tells the story of a historic apartment located on Moscow’s Arbat Street that in a way housed the entire history of the Soviet Union.

All the three screenings are at 7 p.m. in AS 384 and admission is free. More information is available by contacting Russian Club President Emily Feliciano at csulbrussian@gmail.com

Goldovskaya’s movie is also part of the spring 2012 California Russian Documentary Film Festival that on Sunday, March 18, 2-7 p.m., will screen three of her titles at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center. The festival is also part of the current B-Word Project. This special event will include a talk by Goldovskaya, a screening of her latest film “A Bitter Taste of Freedom” and a panel discussion. Admission is free. For more information, access californiarussian@gmail.com.

Goldovskaya, one of best internationally known woman directors and a professor at the UCLA School of Film and Television, was the first Russian filmmaker to introduce a personal diary style in the documentary genre to describe the social changes and their effects on the lives of the people. “A Bitter Taste of Freedom” uses this style to profile the career of journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, known for her opposition to the Chechen conflict, who was shot and killed on Oct. 7, 2006, at the age of 46.

Another Russia-related documentary, “The Desert of Forbidden Art,” will be screened in the Carpenter Center as part of the B-Word Project and the festival on Saturday, March 10, at 8 p.m. This film focuses on banned Soviet art rescued in a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Following the screening, directors Amanda Pope and Tchvdar Georgiev will discuss the film and answer questions.

“Banned, Blacklisted and Boycotted: Censorship and the Response to It (The B-Word Project)” is an 18-month campus-wide initiative, running through December. It presents performances and other activities to stimulate wide-ranging discussions that examine what happens when a voice—whether in artistic endeavors, journalism, scientific research or other areas—is stifled through governmental, commercial, or social restraints.

Russian Film Series

The film festival is organized by The California Russian Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization to enhance understanding and appreciation for Russian culture through educational and charitable activities and to promote interaction and cooperation among members of the public who share an interest in Russia. The foundation is dedicated to promoting cultural, social, and business Russian-American initiatives in California, with a special focus on socially responsible art, cultural heritage, women’s social entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability.

Sidorov, a series organizer who joined CSULB’s Geography Department in 2002, is pleased with the festival.

“These are the kinds of films that almost never get a commercial run even in Russia itself remaining in the shadow of large Hollywood productions,” he said. “Plus, they are from a country once feared in the Cold War, yet now it is the source of high-quality films.”

Sidorov applauds the emergent partnership between university’s Russian Club, the foundation and the Carpenter Center.

“The Carpenter Center is part of the university community,” he said. “This is a way of bridging town and gown; it opens the university to the larger community. Plus, L.A. plays host to a large and flourishing Russian community. That is one of the goals of this festival, to re-establish the local Russian community with its culture.”

Sidorov encourages undecided film fans to attend both the film series and the March 10 and 18 events at the Carpenter Center. “This is a chance to see very rare films accompanied by their filmmakers and discussed by CSULB faculty members. These are high-quality events,” he said.

–Richard Manly