2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company

Russian Film Symposium 2004
Program One

Program One: Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers

Wed May 5 Thu May 6 Fri May 7 Sat May 8
8pm Petr Buslov: Bimmer, 2003. Intro by Sergei Chlyants. 8pm Aleksei German, Jr.: The Last Train, 2003. Intro by Vladimir Padunov. 8pm Gennadii Sidorov: Little Old Ladies, 2003. Intro by Mikhail Iampol'skii. 8pm Andrei Zviagintsev: The Return, 2003. Intro by Vlad Strukov.

Screenings take place at the Melwood Screening Room.

In the two decades leading up to the tenure of Mikhail Gorbachev and the historical period of perestroika (1985-1991), the political leadership of the Soviet Union resided in the hands (and frail bodies) of an aging group of men. By the late 1970s/early 1980s, it was a commonplace observation that political power in the country was synonymous with "gerontocratic rule." This phenomenon was repeated in each of the administrative hierarchies, including the cultural ones. The respective First Secretaries of the "creative unions" were also passing through the late autumns (or early winters) of their lives: in 1986 Georgii Markov of the Writers' Union was 75, Tikhon Khrennikov of the Composers' Union was 73, Lev Kulidzhanov of the Filmmakers' Union was a sprightly 62, etc. It is not surprising, therefore, that "youth" as a social category began to lose its focus: one was still "young" at 41, the age at which it was no longer possible to belong to the Komsomol, the Communist Youth League. To answer Juris Podnieks' question of his 1986 documentary film, Is It Easy to be Young?, from the point of view of the generation of the "twenty-somethings" who were just beginning their professional careers: no, especially since "young" in their case meant being disenfranchised and marginalized.

Consistent with this tendency, even in the first decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the average age of film directors in Russia was well over 50, with the last major influx of new names and new talents occurring in the mid-1950s. That wave of "young" (in their thirties) filmmakers (Tengiz Abuladze, Aleksandr Alov, Vladimir Basov, Sergei Bondarchuk, Grigorii Chukhrai, Georgii Daneliia, Marlen Khutsiev, Lev Kulidzhanov Vladimir Naumov, Vasilii Ordynskii, Iurii Ozerov, Samson Samsonov, etc.) entered the profession after serving in the military during the Second World War, with many of them completing their studies at the State Institute for Filmmaking (VGIK) during the final years of Stalin's reign. Their entrance into the film industry was hailed in the early years of the Thaw as a major breakthrough, reversing the Stalinist cultural politics of the 1930s, when the stranglehold exercised by established directors made it virtually impossible for new ones to enter the field.

This optimistic point of view was not entirely validated by subsequent events. Admittedly, many new directors shot their debut films between the 1960s and 1970s (Vadim Abdrashitov, Aleksei German, Elem Klimov, Andrei Konchalovskii, Nikita Mikhalkov, Kira Muratova, Sergei Paradzhanov, Vasilii Shukshin, Andrei Smirnov, Andrei Tarkovskii), but the influx of new talent never again attained the magnitude of the immediate post-war years. In addition, most of these directors encountered serious problems with the cultural (and in the case of Paradzhanov, judicial) administration, resulting in the cancellation of numerous film projects and the shelving of many of their films. Finally, as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, the influx of new directors slowed once more to a trickle.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the crises plaguing the Russian film industry in the past decade has been the veritable flood of debut films by young directors. Unlike their already established colleagues, who had become accustomed to working within the monetary safety-blanket provided by a state-financed film industry with its state-owned production studios (and who were consequently ill-prepared to make a rapid transition to a market-driven industry that is tied to capital investments and private production studios), this new generation of young directors did not need to adapt to the reconfigured economic conditions and realities of film production; this generation simply knows no other conditions or realities. Indeed, by the second half of the 1990s, the steady stream of debut films was acknowledged as a major change within the industry by the domestic film festival circuits. Starting in 1999, Kinotavr, the Open Russian Film Festival held in Sochi each June, began to organize a separate competition for debut films, which periodically eclipsed the main competition program.

A partial list of debut feature films released in Russia since 1997 would include:








As can be seen from the list above, the four films selected for the debut program at Pittsburgh Filmmakers for this year's Russian Film Symposium were all released in the second half of 2003. Each film has received several prestigious awards at major film festivals both domestically and abroad (see the respective program notes).

2004: Prophets and Gains Debut Films at Pittsburgh Filmmakers STW [СТВ] Film Company Pygmalion Productions NTV-Profit Film Company