Russia, 1967 – released 1988
Russian w/ English subtitles  >> play the trailer

A work of considerable artistic merit, Aleksandr Askoldov’s Commissar (Комиссар) is nonetheless most famous on other than artistic grounds. Based on the story “In the Town of Berdichev” by Ukrainian Jewish author Vasili Grossman, it is writer-director Askoldov’s only film.

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Innocent Saturday – 2011, Mindadze

See the introduction

and Q&A session here.

Screening and talk with the director

We welcome you to a second movie of our guest Alexander Mindadze. This, like the previous one, is based on a true story. As visceral and fragmented as life itself, the story is a dance on the volcano – relentless in style, events and characters.

Set over some 36 hours, the film begins at night, with Valery, an engineer and party official, running desperately to get to Chernobyl, rushing up roads and through undergrowth. The first we hear of events, it seems there have been some containable explosions, but when the camera wanders into a meeting of despairing bigwigs, it emerges that the main reactor has blown – as signaled by an ominous glow in the night sky. Continue reading “Innocent Saturday – 2011, Mindadze”

MY GOOD HANS – 2015, Mindadze

Screening and talk with the director

German with English subtitles. Q&A in Russian, English translation.

It is the spring of 1941. German engineer Hans and his colleagues arrive at a USSR glass manufacturing factory. The Soviet Union is to deliver raw materials to Germany – in exchange for the latest industrial machinery and technologies. It quickly becomes apparent this is not the whole story and both sides have the foreboding of things to come. Yet they meet as people and become friends.

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Alexandra – Александра


Russia, France – Sokurov, 2009

A Russian grandmother (Galina Vishnevskaya, a famous Russian opera singer) visiting her grandson Denis (Vasily Shevtsov), a sergeant in the Russian army. He’s stationed at a remote Chechen outpost, and from the moment Alexandra arrives, she is out of place. The army base is barren and secluded, a closed system with its own code and structure. This visitor creates an immediate juxtaposition between the outside and the inside, and Sokurov patiently tracks the old woman as she explores the camp, talking to soldiers, and even going beyond its perimeter to the local market, where she befriends some of the occupied people.

(A longer review –

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Мать – Mother

Mother – a silent movie by Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1926

Structures shaping into motion, motions reshaping into structure, against each other, so that the whole thing is like a snowstorm rolling down a hill; gathering itself to itself. Which is to say the people to the people, in an effort at once to reshape and portray the reshaped world.

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October – Октябрь

Ten Days That Shook the World

October was one of two films commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution (the other was Vsevolod Pudovkin’s The End of St. Petersburg). Eisenstein was chosen to head the project due to the international success he had achieved with The Battleship Potemkin in 1925. Nikolai Podvoisky, one of the troika who led the storming of the Winter Palace, was responsible for the commission.

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Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears

Vladimir Menshov (1979)

Moscow of the late ’50s is the initial setting for this movie of three young girls out for love – the upwardly mobile Lyuda (Irina Muravyova), the secure Tonya (Raisa Ryazanova) and the head-over-heels Katya (Vera Alentova). The film re-engages the trio 20 years later, focusing on their varied life changes.

John Bush for

Москва пятидесятых годов. Три молодые провинциалки приезжают в Москву в поисках того, что ищут люди во всех столицах мира — любви, счастья и достатка. Их судьбы складываются именно так, как предполагает характер каждой из девушек.


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Screening and Discussion: King Lear



September 15

6:30pm – 9:30pm


The tale of an ageing monarch descending into madness, filtered through a Communist perspective by Russian director Grigori Kozintsev in the latter’s final film.

This monochrome King Lear has an epic sweep, which emphasizes the catastrophic impact of feudal misrule upon the country’s starving masses. A commanding title performance by Estonian actor Yuri Yarvet, some striking landscape imagery, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s anguished score help make for a spirited adaptation.

Original post on the Pushkin House homepage.

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HEAVY WATER – Mario Petrucci

On April 26th, 1986, reactor four at Chernobyl nuclear power station explodes, sending an enormous radioactive cloud over Northern Ukraine and neighbouring Belarus. The danger is kept a secret from the rest of the world and the nearby population who go about their business as usual. May Day celebrations begin, children play and the residents of Pripyat marvel at the spectacular fire raging at the reactor. After three days, an area the size of England becomes contaminated with radioactive dust, creating a ‘zone’ of poisoned land.


On his page ⇒

On Atomic TV ⇒

On Youtube ⇒

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