American Cinema Foundation
E: acinema@cinemafoundation.com
T: 310.889.0742
 

Lucky to be Born in Russia

This section pays tribute to Marina Goldovskaya, a documentarian whose own story is as remarkable as anything she puts on the screen. In 1988 she created a sensation with Solovki Power, the Soviet Union's earliest and most honest look at its infamous Gulag system. Goldovskaya continued filming and videotaping the historic transformation of the USSR into today's Russia, eventually moving to Los Angeles and joining the faculty of UCLA. Woodrow Wilson once referred to a film program as "history written in lightning." Goldovskaya's electronic diaries, which continue to the present, are that first draft of Russian history. The filmmaker will be present at her screenings. We will also screen Sergei Livnev's Hammer and Sickle, a milestone of post-Soviet satirical freedom, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. Livnev carries the artistic tradition of Goldovskaya-his mother-to a second generation.

The Shattered Mirror

(1992) 58 min., Betacam SP

Takes place just after the Soviet Union has itself been irrevocably shattered. The title is doubly appropriate, because Marina Goldovskaya's documentary diary begins with a vast country that is unable to recognize itself in the mirror-no longer the leader of the world Communist movement, not yet a normal, democratic country. We see the situation through the eyes of ordinary people, many of them old friends of the filmmaker. "Exuberant and masterful filmmaking. A deceptively simple and spontaneous work which reveals the filmmaker's wonderful intimacy with her subject matter and her strong command of the craft"-San Francsico International Film Festival.

Lucky to Be Born in Russia

(1994) 58 min., Betacam SP

Sequel to The Shattered Mirror, now taking us into the armed confrontations that led to street fights in Moscow, battles that would determine whether true reform would live or die. Goldovskaya doesn't shrink from the violence, showing us the attempted rebel seizure of a TV station, but she also takes the viewer into the homes and into the hearts of a panorama of Russians, people who know that they are at the center of one of the great questions of our time: Which way will this mighty nation go?

A Taste of Freedom

(1990) 46 min., 18mm/Betacam SP

Takes us back to the final days of the Soviet empire, when perestroika (reconstruction) and glasnost (openness, truthfulness) were words of hope for a better USSR. The future was still clouded in 1990, and many Soviet citizens thought that Communism could reform itself into something closer to a western socialist movement; people talked hopefully of a "third way" long before Tony Blair popularized the term. This proved to be impossible. A Taste of Freedom is centered on the Politkovsky family. Husband and wife are journalists caught up in the excitement of rapid social change. What makes this film unique in the series is its historical moment; it knows that Stalinist Communism is through, but it doesn't yet know that Communism itself is doomed.

Hammer and Sickle

(1994) 94 min., 35mm

Of the earliest and darkest comedies about the all-too-recent days of Soviet government. The restrained, but bizarre-sounding story, about a purported campaign of government-approved sex changes, is Russian absurd humor at its finest. Compare it to Latin American "magic realism", or to "The Master and Margarita". The film is directed by Marina Goldovskaya's son, Sergei Livnev, an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right, who also produced Land of the Deaf (the opening film of the 1999 Freedom Film Festival). We present it on its tenth anniversary as a fine example of how one generation can achieve a degree of freedom for its successors.

Solovky Power

(1988) 87 min., 35mm

The first major Soviet film about the horrors endured by Stalin's tens of millions of political prisoners. Solovky, once a monastery, was the first island of what would one day be called "The Gulag Archipelago". This film combines archival footage with contemporary interviews of prison staff and survivors. As such, it not only revealed history, but itself made history, and was one of the cultural provocations that led to the collapse of Communism. "First rate film journalism of historical importance....Solovky Power is so good that it leaves the audience wanting to know more...." –Vincent Canby, The New York Times

The House on Arbat Street

(1993) 58 min., Betacam SP

One of Goldovskaya's most famous films. An apartment building on a grand boulevard in Moscow is witness to many of the most dramatic changes of the twentieth century. Built as a home for the privileged, it was converted to collective housing, and became a hive of communal apartments, each of them packed with people, related or not. Some see only deprivation; but some remember the shared experience of pioneering what they hoped to be a new way of living. Of course, everyone remembers something else, too-the betrayals, the spying, and the terror of the two a.m. knock at the door.

The Prince Is Back

(2000) 59 min., Betacam SP, color

Goldovskaya's most recent completed film. It's the true story of Evgeny Meschersky, a prince in the vanquished Romanov line, who returns to Russia to try to reclaim some part of his missing history. What kind of "Prince" can there be after 75 years of Soviet rule, in which the alleged and actual crimes of the aristocracy were treated as virtually the whole of pre-Soviet Russian history? How do people react to this would-be nobleman who tries to rebuild his dirty ruin of a house with his own bare hands? This quixotic story of a seemingly absurd quest has charm and humor, and even a little respect for its eccentric but down-to-earth hero.