Category: New Media & Film

60th Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival

APRIL 2-6, 2013. BELGRADE YOUTH CENTER AND OTHER VENUES.

April 2013 marked the 60th year of the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival, which places it among the oldest film festivals of any type in Europe. In light of this unique position within the international film festival landscape, it seems that an investigation into the history of the Belgrade Festival, or “Kratki metar,” and its connection with the unpredictable political winds in the former Socialist Yugoslavia (now post-socialist Serbia) would be a welcome addition to the annals of general film culture.

Towards that, a young researcher named Dunja Jelenkovi? has … Read more

GoEast: The 12th Festival of Central and East European Film in Wiesbaden

GoEast: The 12th Festival of Central and East European Film in Wiesbaden, held in April 2012, devoted its symposium section to a thorough and scintillating reevaluation of Lenfilm, entitled: RealAvantGarde – With Lenfilm Through the Short 20th Century.

About the Lenfilm Studio

Jeremy Hicks

Lenfilm, the first Soviet studio to be founded after the revolution, but perpetually the second studio of the USSR exerted enormous influence at crucial periods of Soviet and Russian film history: from its contribution to the 1920s avant-garde with the FEKS films and innovative animation, to its era-defining Chapaev and Maxim trilogy in the 1930s, … Read more

Vision and Communism: The Films of Aleksandr Medvedkin and Chris Marker at “The Film Studies Center, Chicago” (Review Article)

The Films of Aleksandr Medvedkin and Chris Marker, The Film Studies Center, University of Chicago, October 12, October 19, November 2, 2011

In connection with the exhibition Vision and Communism at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, the films of Aleksandr Medvedkin and Chris Marker were shown at the Film Studies Center at the University of Chicago. Both the exhibition and the films are a part of the Soviet Arts Experience, an extensive series of 100 programs and events devoted to Soviet art and culture in twenty-six venues across Chicago. The massive nature of this experience demands attention to how … Read more

The Fourth Annual Cambridge Festival of Ukrainian Film, 2011

On November 10 and 11, 2011, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies, a program in the Department of Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge, hosted a symposium to honor the wide-ranging work of Ukrainian filmmaker Ihor (Igor’) Savchenko (1906-1950). Savchenko’s career in cinema spanned several decades and encompassed an assortment of genres; his many credits include the first Soviet musical The Accordion (1934), the romantic comedy Chance Meeting (1936), and the wartime epics Bogdan Khmelnitskii (1941), The Russian Sailor: Ivan Nikulin (1944), and The Third Strike (1948). The Symposium consisted of screenings, discussions, and papers presented by leading international film-specialists that not … Read more

The Visual Sonority of Francis Bacon’s Painting in Jerzy Skolimowski’s “The Shout” (1978) (Review Article)

The structure of The Shout (1978) by Jerzy Skolimowski is built on the antagonism between two male protagonists, Anthony Fielding (Ian Hurt) and Crossley (Alan Bates). The first is a composer who records and experiments with natural sounds; the latter is a mysterious invader who claims to possess supernatural powers and is able to kill with his shout. The classically trained musician embodies human culture and order, while the other character denotes rough animalistic forces and natural elements. This contrast between the two characters is accentuated by other elements in the film that represent the norm and the irregularity, such … Read more

Reflections: Central European Artists on Their Work and the Post-Communist Condition

The following video series documents the panel Revolution, Transformation and Identity: Central European Artists Reflect upon Post-Communist Art, Urbanism, and Culture that took place on October 30, 2011, at the Graham Foundation, Chicago. The panel was held in conjunction with the exhibition Voices from the Center on view at threewalls gallery, Chicago, October 28-December 10, 2011. The series includes introductory remarks by Shannon Stratton, Executive and Creative Director of threewalls and Janeil Engelstad, curator of the exhibition, and individual presentations by artists Matej Vakula, Miklos Suranyi, Oto Hudec, Magda Stanova, and Jan Worpus of Grafixipol.

Also see the related podcast Read more

The 46th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary 2011 – An A-Festival with a Human Face (Film & Screen Media)

The Beginnings in 1946

Both have an art deco touch: the chunky gold-plated Oscar and the elegant brass statue of a female figure holding a glass globe. The Chrystal Globe, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival award, in its current shape was created only 11 years ago, but harks back to the decorative style of the first decades of the 20th century.(According to the festival dossier in the Czech monthly euro 27/6/2011, 77. The globe is produced by the traditional Moser glass factory (Karlovy Vary).) The festival is among the oldest in Europe.(It is the third oldest film Read more

Lev Kuleshov (Dir.), “Proekt Inzhenera Praita” (“Engineer Prite’s Project”); “Velikii uteshitel’ (O. Genri v tiur’me)” (“The Great Consoler (O’Henry in Prison”) (DVD Review)

Proekt Inzhenera Praita (Engineer Prite’s Project), Directed by Lev Kuleshov, 1918, 30 Minutes; Hyperkino commentary by Nikolai Izvolov and Natascha Drubek-Meyer. RUSCICO: Kino Academia 1 (2 DVDs);

Velikii uteshitel’ (O. Genri v tiur’me) (The Great Consoler (O Henry in Prison), Directed by Lev Kuleshov, 1933, 91 Minutes); Hyperkino commentary by Ekaterina Khokhlova. RUSCICO: Kino Academia 3 (2 DVDs

The life and career of Lev Kuleshov pose certain paradoxes. Kuleshov appears in every account of early Sovietcinema and is typically cited—along with Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Vertov–as one of its true pioneers. Kuleshov, who was born in 1899, was also the youngest … Read more

Uzbek Elegy: The Films of Ali Khamraev

Along with Andrey Konchalovsky and Otar Iosseliani, Ali Irgashaliyevich Khamraev (in Uzbek, Ali Hamroev; b. 1937) is one of the great survivors of Soviet New Wave Cinema. Since 1964, Khamraev has been active in numerous genres, from the Romantic Comedy to the Political Drama, and from the Western to the Art-cinema Parable, to the TV mini-series. The son of a Tadjik man and a Ukrainian woman, he typified Soviet poly-nationalism, working for studios across Central Asia and Russia, from Tadjikistan to Moscow. Since the fall of the Soviet Union he has also lived for a time in Italy. Kent Jones … Read more

Aleksandr Medvedkin (Director) —“Счастье / Happiness” 5th DVD of RUSCICO Academia Series. (DVD Review)

Happiness,  Directed by Alexander Medvedkin, 1934, 95 minutes, 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio. Moskombinat, Vostokfilm Mosfil’m

Like many cinephiles I became familiar with Alexander Medvedkin’s work through Chris Marker’s wonderful documentary, The Last Bolshevik, that featured a tender portrait of the topsy-turvy Soviet director. I emphasize “Soviet” as I was continuously astounded as to how Medvedkin got away with his earnestly over-determined socialist sketches that equated Soviet modernity with naïve folk culture. Some of the images from Medvedkin’s 1935 film Happiness really stood out in Marker’s essay with their striking iconography and ridiculous approach to socialist realism. The film style borrows … Read more

Execution or Amnesty? Pavel Lungin’s Lesson on Russian History (Review Article)

Russian cinema has shown noticeable interest in Russian national history over the past few years. When dealing with representations of history in film, the most enlightening question is not whether the depicted events are true, but rather how the past is viewed from the contemporary perspective. Historical films, therefore, provide insight into the ways history is dealt with in public discourse on the one hand, and how they exert influence on the historical awareness of society on the other.

Pavel Lungin’s 2009 film Tsar, the latest work of the well-known Russian filmmaker, focuses on one of the most controversial … Read more

Eastern European Films at this Year’s L.A. Film Festival (Film Review Article)

It is hard to imagine any of this summer’s movie events as anything other than preamble to the much-anticipated release of Christopher Nolan’s latest thinking-man’s blockbuster, Inception. Nevertheless, while the big screens were lying in wait for their crowds, the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival (June 17-27) was in midst of a small transformation. With a change of location that has had veteran festival goers grumbling about the schlep from Westwood to downtown LA (though the parking is no doubt a welcome novelty), a line-up that is far less headliner-heavy but with a greater eye for international features, the … Read more

Do We Need Archive Film Festivals? (Film Review Article)

The 14th Gosfil’mofond Festival, Belye Stolby, Russia, February 1-6, 2010

South of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport lies the microraion Belye Stolby [White Pillars], home to Gosfil’mofond, the State Film Fund. It is housed in a tall, red building. An eye-catching circle crowns the façade, cutting a hole in the steel blue sky, and reminding me of film reels, or perhaps the shiny metal canisters in which films are stored. It is February. Black and white birches (another meaning of Belye Stolby) protrude from the deep snow. This is the Russian Homeland for Old Films–specifically, for prints which have been “retired” from … Read more

Dušan Makavejev—Free Radical. Eclipse series 18. The Criterion Collection, 2010. (DVD Review)

?ovek nije tica [Man Is Not a Bird], 1965. Written and directed by Dušan Makavejev, and produced by Dušan Perkovi?, 78 minutes, Black and White, 1.66:1, Serbo-Croatian.

Ljubavni slu?aj ili tragedija službenice PTT [Love Affair, or The Case Of the Missing Switchboard Operator], 1967. Writen and directed by Dušan Makavejev, and produced by Aleksander Krsti?, 68 minutes, Black and White, 1.66:1, Serbo-Croatian.

Nevinost bez zaštite [Innocence Unprotected], 1968. Written and directed by Dušan Makavejev, and produced by Bosko Savi?, 75 minutes, Black and White, Color, 1.33:1, Serbo-Croatian.

Criterion’s Eclipse series is a selection of … Read more

The Stalin Era in Secondary Processing (Film Review Article)

Petya on the Road to the Kingdom of Heaven, 2009, produced by Fedor Popov, directed by Nikolay Dostal, 2009, written by Mikhail Kuraev, 97 min.

Since the glasnost years the Stalin era has become a popular topic in Russian cinema, and has also helped to draw attention to Russian film abroad. At the last Moscow Film Festival (2009), the Grand-Prix was once again conferred on a picture about the Stalin era, Nikolai Dostal’s Petya on the Road to the Kingdom of Heaven [Petya po doroge v Tsarstvie Nebesnoe]. However, unlike Dmitry Meskhiev’s Us [Svoi] (2004), which was distinguished … Read more

The “Vremena” Show: Russian Television Between Extremism and Moderation (Film & Screen Media)

The Russian TV show Vremena [Times] represents a synthesis of Western and Soviet models. The show, recently discontinued, was moderated by the Western-trained Vladimir Pozner.(Vladimir Pozner’s biography:  http://www.russiaproject.org/part2/titans/pozner.html (accessed October 14, 2010).)  Pozner rose to prominence during the early perestroika years by co-hosting several US-Russia video–links and by acting as a critical political observer. His persona is important for an understanding of Vremena’s format. Vremena was what is known in Russian as an authorial [avtorskaya] program, organized around the personality and concerns of a charismatic broadcaster who adopts the stance of a leading intellectual. As … Read more

A Path of No Return: Goran Rušinović’s “Buick Riviera” (Film Review)

Buick Riviera, directed by Goran Rušinovi?, 2008.  Written by Goran Rušinovi? and Miljenko Jergovi?, 86 minutes, Propeler Film, Croatian Television, Tradewind Pictures (Germany), Refresh Production (BiH), Platform Pictures (USA), Film and Music Entertainment (UK).

Goran Rušinovi?’s Buick Riviera is one of many films dealing with violence in the Slavic part ofthe Balkans during the last fifteen years. What sets it apart from the rest is the fact that it transposes the war both temporally (through the continuation of the war on a psychological level in the post-war period) and geographically (through re-location to another continent). Despite its specific Balkan … Read more

Radúz Činčera, Ján Roháč, Vladimír Svitáček (Dir.), “Kinoautomat – Človek a jeho dům / One Man and his House” (DVD Review)

Kinoautomat – One Man and His House, directed by Radúz ?in?era, Ján Rohá?, Vladimír Svitá?ek, 2008, written by Pavel Jurá?ek, 63 minutes, 1.80:1 aspect ratio, Bontonfilm

First things first: a kinoautomat is something like a movie vending-machine—you drop in your coins and out comes the movie you’ve selected. Accordingly, the Czechoslovakian film Kinoautomat: One Man and His House was one of the first interactive movies, one that allows the audience to decide for itself how the plot will evolve, to quite literally choose what movie they will watch. The film, together with its experimental exhibition technology, was presented in … Read more

Wolfgang Beilenhoff and Sabine Hänsgen (eds.), “Der Gewöhnliche Faschismus” (Film Book Review)

Der Gewöhnliche Faschismus. Ein Werkbuch zum Film von Michail Romm. Wolfgang Beilenhoff and Sabine Hänsgen (eds.), in collaboration with Maya Turovskaya. Berlin: Vorwerk 8, 2009. 335 pp.

Ironically, last year’s celebrations and world-wide media attention surrounding the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall coincided with the publication of a book which quite unexpectedly throws light on an aspect of the history of the two German states that remains unresolved to this day: the heritage of National Socialism on both sides of the Wall, and in reunited Germany. The publication is on Mikhail Romm’s film Ordinary FascismRead more

Jaroslav Andĕl/Petr Szczepaník (Eds.), “Cinema All The Time: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939” (Film Book Review)

Jaroslav Anděl/Petr Szczepaník (eds.), CINEMA ALL THE TIME: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939. Translated by Kevin B. Johnson, Prague: National Film Archive, 2008. 315 pp.

Petr Szczepaník/Jaroslav Anděl (eds.), STÁLE KINEMA: Antologie českého myšlení o filmu 1904-1950, Praha: Národního filmového archivu, 2008. 430s.

Until recently, the history of Czech film theory and criticism has been a subject limited to specialists.  Original theoretical texts dealing with Czech cinema are not easily available and for the most part have gone untranslated. It is therefore not surprising that, until now, the historical importance and cultural value of … Read more

Jiri Menzel (Dir.), “I Served the King of England” (DVD Review)

I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND, DIRECTED BY JILI MENZEL, 2006. 120 MIN., 1.85 : 1 ASPECT RATIO.

This past February marked the U.S release of Czech director Jiri Menzel’s latest film, I Served the King of England. Although released in the Czech Republic two years ago, 2009 is the perfect year for an American release, as it marks both the anniversary of the Czech liberation from communist rule and the 70th anniversary of the Nazi occupation. The film itself is played in true Czech style, looking back on the interwar period with a mixture of irony, nostalgia, … Read more

Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films 1964-1992 (DVD Review)

Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films 1964-1992, Released on DVD by the BFI DVD Publishing, 2007. 313 min, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio.

At 74, Jan Švankmajer continues to stun and startle. Recently, he has been awarded the Crystal Globe at the 44th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. He reacted to this prestigious Czech prize with a somewhat ironic attitude, explaining once more to the audience and the academy — after more than forty years of a career based on relentless anti-nationalism — that he does not consider his films as a property … Read more

“Forgotten Transports” – Lukas Pribyl Talks With Elisabeth Weber About His Acclaimed Holocaust Documentary

Lukas Pribyl studied at Brandeis University, Hebrew University, and Columbia University, among others. He has published on various aspects of Jewish history and curated exhibitions at the Jewish Museum in Prague. Forgotten Transports – Pribyl’s first film project- is a series of four feature-length documentaries about the remarkable strategies people used to survive during the Holocaust.

Elisabeth Weber: Forgotten Transports to Estonia is one of four feature length documentary films about the fate of fewer than three hundred Czech Jews who survived their deportation to virtually unknown concentration camps and ghettos in four Eastern European countries.

Tens of thousands of … Read more

V-Day: The (De-) Construction of Nationhood on Russian TV (Film Section)

Vladimir Putin’s election to the Russian presidency in 2000 effectively marked an end to the limited political license that Boris Yeltsin had granted television following the collapse of communism in 1991. Putin rapidly fell out with Yeltsin’s close ally, the oligarch, Boris Berezovskii, who along with other such oligarchs, and in a symbiotic relationship with the Russian state, had effectively owned and controlled national television in the 1990s. Berezovsky had been the largest stakeholder in ORT (Obshchestvennoe Russkoe Televidenie, or Russian Public Television), which, following Berezovsky’s exile to the UK, effectively became the state channel (it was renamed Channel Read more

Doing the Balkans with No Baedeker: Kusturica, Peter Handke, and Beyond

In January 1996, Austrian playwright Peter Handke published his diaries from a recent visit to Serbia, an event that opened him to the widespread excoriating criticism that became known as the “Handke Affair.” As Serbia advanced on Kosovo and NATO made sorties of its own into Belgrade in 1999, the state became increasingly isolated,Slobodan Miloševi?’s rhetoric increasingly inflammatory and nationalistic. Miloševi?’s incarceration and trial at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, the prosecutions of perpetrators of the massacre of Bosniak civilians in Srebrenica and Serbia’s continued objection to Kosovo’s independence in 2008 served only to vindicate Handke’s critics Read more

In Search of a Final Flight: Two Films by Larisa Shepitko on DVD (Film Review)

WINGS. DIRECTED BY LARISA SHEPITKO, 1966. RELEASED ON DVD BY THE CRITERION COLLECTION, 2008. 85 MIN, 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO.

THE ASCENT. DIRECTED BY LARISA SHEPITKO, 1977. RELEASED ON DVD BY THE CRITERION COLLECTION, 2008. 109 MIN, 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO.

The 1965 end of year issue of Sovetskiy Ekran, the leading Soviet film magazine, came with a mail-in questionnaire.(Much of the information on the restructuring of the Soviet Film industry is based on Hill, Steven “Soviet Film Today” in Film Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Summer, 1967), pp. 33-52.)  Alongside garden-variety marketing research questions about … Read more

Happy End (“Rusalka” Roundtable, #1)

The “little mermaid,” the naïve heroine of Anna Melikyan’s The Mermaid, dies minutes before the film ends. She is struck by a car in Moscow, the brutal Russian capital that is so indifferent to the fate of its inhabitants. This sudden, hyper-realistic and, cynically natural death is even more tragic as the mermaid, Alisa, is just about to realize her dream of winning the love of her prince (Aleksandr/Sasha). At least for a moment, Alisa and the audience are both led to believe in the possibility of such a fairy tale ending.

Aleksandr, a typical representative of the Russian … Read more

Glamor Discourse (“Rusalka” Roundtable, #2)

Anna Melikjan’s Mermaid (Rusalka, 2007) is one of several recent Russian films dealing with the Cinderella story in the context of contemporary Russia. In Rusalka as well as in Pops (Popsa, directed by Elena Nikolaeva, 2005) or Gloss (Glianets, directed by Andrei Konchalovskii, 2007), the female protagonist comes to Moscow from the provinces in the hopes of changing her life for the better. In Rusalka, Melikyan puts together elements from various narrative models of female life-stories – the biography, the melodrama and the fairy tale. They complete each other, comment on, or contradict … Read more

A Modern Fairy Tale (“Rusalka” Roundtable, #3)

“I can make dreams come true,” says Alisa and by doing so makes one of the many claims in this movie which are supposed to make us believe that Anna Melikyan’s Mermaid is a modern fairy tale. The way in which the film is put together: the camera work, the editing and Alisa‘s retrospective voice-over  evoke a fairy-tale-like world in which Alisa’s character is able to interfere. Or so it seems. In this film the forces of nature align to grant wishes, magic love shows instant effects, and the future can be changed for the better at the last minute … Read more

Theodor Adorno, Fairy Tales, and “Rusalka” (“Rusalka” Roundtable, #4)

In “Wolf as Grandmother,” one of his reflections in Minima Moralia (1951), Theodor W. Adorno once disputed the claims of those who defend film as a “popular art” (Volkskunst) against the standards of autonomous works of art. According to Adorno, these critics erred in comparing film, its stereotypical character and its schematic distinction of good and evil, to the workings of the fairy-tale. Adorno refutes this argument within his framework of a Marxist critique of culture industry (Kulturindustrie), which he had laid out in his best known work The Dialectic of Enlightenment (Dialektik der AufklärungRead more