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Brandeis introduces contemporary Russian movie series

By Alana Hodson

Section: Arts

October 2, 2015

To further enrich the university’s international character, the Russian Studies Program and Eurochannel, in conjunction with the Russian Club, are hosting the Russian Contemporary Film Festival this fall.

The Russian Studies Program welcomes any and all film connoisseurs, upcoming Russian studies scholars, curious explorers and any other interested students. The festival consists of five renowned, contemporary Russian films of various genres to be shown every Thursday over the next four weeks.

“The purpose is to bring contemporary Russian films to the Brandeis community,” said Irina Dubinina, the assistant professor of Russian and director of the Russian Studies program. “American audiences are not familiar with what happens in world cinematography [beyond Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film], so this is an opportunity to see five contemporary films made in Russia by Russian directors about Russia.”

The first film, “My Dad is Baryshnikov” (2011) directed and written by Dmitry Povolotsky, was shown this week to a modest audience of about 20 students. Set in 1980s Moscow, the film follows a young boy named Borya who managed to be accepted into the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet School, despite his less-than-remarkable talent for the art. He dreams of one day dancing on the famous Bolshoi stage in the hopes of following in the footsteps of the man he believes to be his father, the legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. The film highlights the ambitions of the zealous Borya while set in the politically-charged era of post-Soviet Russia. Eventually caught in act of illegal currency trade while attempting to disguise his poverty and impress the girl of his dreams, Borya’s position at the school is jeopardized. However, the real twist occurs at the end of the film, creating a humorously ironic conclusion to Borya’s childhood aspirations, as well as the relationship between his father and him.

“My Dad is Baryshnikov” impressed professional movie critics at the time of its release, and continues received praise from its Brandeis audience.

“I thought it was a really interesting way to represent relationships among peers and families in the post-Soviet era, especially given the then current political status,” Sophie Lis ’19 said. “It was also very unique to see how Borya’s real father proved to be even better, in reality, than who he imagined him to be—their relationship was very sweet and supportive!” The film achieves a harmonic balance between light-hearted humor, such as when Borya jumps in front of the closing curtain and steals an (unearned) additional bow after performing in a recital for the Queen of Spain, and the more serious nature of the film’s setting, as in the portrayal of the emotional and social consequences of Borya’s expulsion from Bolshoi.

The films to be shown over the next four weeks are “Another Year” (2014), “The Admirer” (2012), “Thirst” (2012) and “Jolly Fellows” (2009), respectively. Each movie offers a unique facet of Russian society.

“We jump from a coming of age story to an improbable romance trying to survive in Moscow, to the 19th century and Chekhov’s love story, and back to the 21st century for cross-dressing nightclubs,” Dubinina said.

The most recent film that will be shown, “Another Year,” is a Russian romantic drama based on a play by Soviet-era author Alexander Volodin which follows the life of a couple over the course of a year. The young lovers, whose lives, goals and backgrounds are drastically different, experience great happiness and strife throughout their relationship, and director Oksana Bychkova gracefully paints a candid and rich picture of new marriage through their story.

The Russian Contemporary Film Festival will be held in the Mandel Center for the Humanities Room G12 every Thursday night at 7. All of the movies are in Russian, but there are English subtitles.

“We hope that Brandeis community will enjoy exploring Russian society of today and of the past,” Dubinina said, “and for students of Russian, it will be a great opportunity to put their language skills to test.”

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