Soviet Union / 1963 / Russian

Directed by Shukhrat Abbasov

With Lyutfi Sarymsakova, Abid Dshalilov, Gena Tkachenko

Still from 'You Are Not an Orphan'While identifying a film done in the Soviet Union as propaganda is irrelevant (few were able to be produced without at least nominally being just that), the propagandistic elements of such a film do take on importance when discussing the varying ways and levels in which it was meant as a conduit for public doctrine, as well as how it does or does not subvert the attitudes it is meant to convey. A compacted fairy tale aimed at Central Asian people of the republic, You Are Not an Orphan is an example of a hardworking picture that dutifully perpetuates such conventional pretensions as internationalism, tolerance, and gleeful cooperation, but takes with it dimensions and scenes that also interrupt, confuse, or outright negate these stock messages. Read the rest of this entry »


Romania / 1964 / Romanian

Directed by Liviu Ciulei

With Victor Rebengiuc, Anna Széles, Ștefan Ciubotărașu

Still from 'Forest of the Hanged'On a bare, wintry hillside, the camera tracks along a line of skeletal trees, tracing the indistinct line of the horizon, and stops at a noose hanging in the chalky sky. Two men are digging a grave right next to the makeshift gallows, digging through snow and muck; bitter, incessant wind. In spite of the shadows of gargantuan, cement clouds blanketing the Romanian countryside, the men continue their job with worn-out, routine seriousness. They are clearly making way for a pathetic creature, damned to the indignity of having one’s grave right next to one’s hanging ground. Read the rest of this entry »

Still from 'Griha Pravesh'

A Look at Basu Bhattacharya’s 70s Work

The Sanskrit word maya, sometimes incompletely translated into English as “illusion”, is often explained as a way of looking at the world, rather than as a single concept or a thing with attributes. It is illusion in the most profound sense of the word, where not only everything we know concretely, but also ephemerality itself, as well as ideas and the intangible flow of time, are all but an appearance obscuring an ultimate reality that lies underneath. Many Indian experimental films, especially those that draw from, or have some lineage in, literature, such as Mani Kaul’s meta-ghost story Duvidha (1973) or Kumar Shahani’s hypnotically psychogeographic Mirror of Illusion (1972) use maya theory as a basis for how they visualize what happens onscreen, not simply underlining the imaginary nature of what we are seeing, but exploring bright and transient vibrations from the true, submerged world, as they influence and disrupt the world of experience. Three films that Basu Bhattacharya wrote and directed between 1971 and 1979, each focusing on tribulations of middle-class married life, turn this most basic of Hindu philosophies inward, looking at how this external universe of perception is incorporated into the way that we relate to others and, perhaps more intriguingly, how we forge our own identities from the deceptive fragments of reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Defying Everybody


Soviet Union / 1972 / Serbian, Russian & German

Directed by Yuri Ilyenko

With Vladimir Popovic, Larisa Kadochnikova, Ivan Mikolajchuk

Still from 'Defying Everybody'At the beginning of his film Defying Everybody Ukrainian filmmaker Yuri Ilyenko treats us to a sequence of slow-moving images that are startling for their elegiac ferocity. Faces of blank rock, chalky and Gothic protrusions that reach upwards like dull spires, surround the frame from seemingly all angles. A powerful feeling of inland seasickness pervades as the swollen stillness of the landscape is washed over by the wails and whispers of grieving women who pick stones from the mountainside. Are these for anonymous pile-graves for sons-brothers-husbands? One woman’s hand, reaching into a cubbyhole in the rock, inadvertently grasps a fern. They take the rocks and dump the silage. Starvation: a boy chews the fungus off of a branch. We come to understand that this is all seen through the eyes of Petr I. Petrovic, the local bishop who has just come back from Russia, returning to this place of lichen and stone. Read the rest of this entry »