2002 Global Amnesia and Imperial Fatigue

Global Amnesia 1. Central Asian Cinema, 1990-2001

When: Monday, 25 March – Friday, 29 March 2002, 6:00 – 10:00pm

Where: Posvar Suite (2K/2M56)

Who: Prof. Gulnara Abikeyeva (Kazakhstan Academy of Arts; Soros Foundation)

Since 1990, the former Central Asian republics of the USSR – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – have attracted attention from Western business interests and political scientists. More recently, however, international film festivals have discovered Central Asian cinema, both as discrete industries and as a regional cinema. While some of this shared aesthetic practice is rooted in the region's close ties to the Russo-Soviet empire (Russian as the prevailing lingua franca, socialist realism as the dominant aesthetic method, the Soviet establishment of national film industries and training generations of filmmakers, etc.), other basic elements are located in the region's history within non-Western cultural traditions (Muslim, Persian, and Turkic). These traditions are marked, in part, by a different conception of narrativity and the implementation of a competing set of representational codes and systems.


March 25 – Kazakhstan. The Needle, 1988. Dir. Rashid Nugmanov.
March 26 – Kyrgyzstan. Adopted Son, 1998. Dir. Aktan Abdykalykov; Bus Stop, 2000. Dir. Aktan Abdykalykov and Ernest Abdyzhaparov.
March 27 – Tadjikistan. Flight of the Bee, 1998. Dir. Dzhamshet Usmonov.
March 28 – Turkmenistan. Little Angel, Bring Me Joy, 1993. Dir. Usman Saparov.
March 29 – Uzbekistan. Bo, Ba, Bu, 1998. Dir. Ali Khamraev.

Lecture Topics

March 25: Westernization Against Russification. Focus on Kazakhstan.
New hero in Soviet Screen on the end of 80-s had an Asian face.
The general characteristics of new style in Central Asian Cinema of last decade.
March 26: Search for National Identity. Focus on Kyrgyzstan.
Benedict Anderson's "imagined communities" and creation of nationhood by Kyrgyz filmmakers.
Transforming the realistic text of the film into allegorical.
March 27: Settled and Nomadic Cultures. Focus on Tajikistan.
Catapult to independence – civic war in Tajikistan: reasons and results.
Fanon's conception about three stages of cultural change in postcolonial counties.
Soviet mentality, religious influence, pan-turkism, building of modern Eurasia, etc.
March 28: The fates of the postcolonial countries. Focus on Turkmenistan.
Cinema in conditions of new totalitarianism.
National allegory as a postcolonial characteristic of Third World culture and society (Jameson).
March 29: Easternization Against Westernization. Focus on Uzbekistan.
Self-sufficiency as an announced policy.
Transforming from Second- to Third-World society.

Gulnara Abikeyeva

Gulnara Abikeyeva, author of The Cinema of Central Asia, 1990-2001 (2001) and New Kazakh Cinema (1998), received her PhD from VGIK (the All-Union Institute of Cinema, Moscow), where she worked in East-West cinema with a particular focus on Kurosawa. She is currently affiliated with the Kazakh Academy of Arts, where she teaches film, and Soros Foundation (Kazakhstan), where she is Program Coordinator for Arts and Culture. Prof. Abikeyeva will conduct a weeklong seminar in English that will focus on the region's film production in the past decade. Each meeting will consist of a talk, screening, and discussion. Five films–all with English subtitles–will be screened during the week.

Imperial Fatigue 1. Post-Soviet Cinema

Unlike much of Europe in the early twentieth century, Russia did not replace a dynastic-religious empire with a nation-state. Instead, it had substituted its dynastic empire with a socialist one, enduring three-quarters of a century.

In the years after the 1991 collapse of the USSR, the critical task facing Russia's leadership was not "merely" the appropriation of an existing structure. Instead, for the first time in Russia's thousand-year history, the task was to forge a nation-state from the remains of Europe's last multinational empire, the third largest empire in human history.

"Imperial Fatigue" presents a selection of recent films that trace, directly or indirectly, Russia's sloughing off of its imperial burden and reconstitution as a nation-state when the very function of the nation-state is called into question.

The film series will include other elements of contemporary Russian culture (graphic arts, performance poetry, prose), organized around two of Russia's most eminent conceptual artists: Dmitrii Prigov (Russia's leading conceptual poet and performance artist) and Vladimir Sorokin (Russia's most controversial postmodern writer). Exhibits of graphic work by Prigov will include readings from and performances of his literary work.

Four films, screened at Carnegie Museum of Art, will include Pavel Lungin'sTaxi Blues (1990) and Aleksei German's Khrustalev, My Car! (1998), both of which include acting by Prigov in pivotal scenes. Prigov will introduce Lungin's film, and will lead the discussion. Mikhail Iampol'skii will introduce Khrustalev, My Car! Mark Lipovetskii will present Aleksandr Zel'dovich's Moscow (2000). A fourth film, Vladimir Khotinenko's Muslim (1995), focuses on the fate of a Soviet soldier who, having served in Afghanistan, returns home converted to Islam.


Mon April 29 - 5pm. Opening of Prigov art exhibit Phantom Installations at the University Art Gallery, Frick Fine Arts Building. Opening reception
Tue April 30 - 7-9pm. Performance by Prigov
Quiet Storm Coffeehouse, 5430 Penn Avenue
Wed May 1 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Muslim. Introduced by Vladimir Padunov
Thu May 2 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Khrustalev, My Car! Introduced by Mikhail Iampol'skii
Fri May 3 - 7.30pm.CMA screening: Moscow. Introduced byMark Lipovetskii
Sat May 4 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Taxi Blues. Introduced by Prigov. Q&A with Prigov following film
Thu May 97.30pm. CMA screening: Muslim
Fri May 10 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Khrustalev, My Car!
Sat May 11 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Moscow
Sun May 12 - 7.30pm. CMA screening: Taxi Blues

Global Amnesia (2) and the Politics of Cultural Space: Contemporary Central Asian Cinema

The University of Pittsburgh (US) and the Institute for Cinema Art (Moscow), with support from the Ford Foundation, conducted a jointly sponsored Symposium from Monday 20 May through Friday 24 May 2002 at the Institute in Moscow. The event examined the interrelationships between contemporary Russia and the newly independent nation states in Central Asia, with particular attention to cinematic representation of these two regions. The title of the Symposium, "Global Amnesia and the Politics of Cultural Space: Contemporary Central Asian Cinema," intended to focus attention on the following paradox: the majority of nation states located in the very center Eurasia remain, for the most part, on the periphery of both the process of globalization and the ongoing theoretical discussions in the West concerning post-imperial realia. How is the 21st century already reconfiguring the blank spots of this neglected geography? How are the cultural practices of these areas represented and what role do they play in global culture? These theoretical issues were intended to encourage the participants in the Symposium to reconceptualize the cultural legacy of this region, not simply as the sum total of isolated cultures or the "red shards" of a collapsed empire, but also as a set of ongoing professional alliances and collaborations, with strong historical roots, especially in cinema.

Professors Nancy Condee and Vladimir Padunov from the University of Pittsburgh brought five graduate students: Seth Graham (Slavic), Gerald McCausland (Slavic), Petre Petrov (Slavic), Dawn Seckler (Slavic), and Daniel Wild (Film Studies). Between fifteen and twenty scholars from the Russian federation and from the five Central Asian nation states also participated. Each working day of the Symposium consisted of a full-length feature film from Central Asia, three to four formal presentations, discussions, and evening screenings of recent short films and videos from the Central Asian nation states.


Monday, 20 May. Kazakhstan

Opening ceremonies of the Symposium "Global Amnesia and the Politics of Cultural Space: Contemporary Central Asian Cinema"

Surzhekei–Angel of Death (dir. Damir Manabaev, 1991)
Formal presentations by Gul'nara Abikeeva, Asia Baigozhina, Diliara Tasbulatova
Coming-of-Age Day (dir. Mukhamed Mamyrbekov, 2001)
To Paris (dir. Erlan Nurmukhambetov, 2001)
The Stranger (dir. Timur Suleimenov, 1993)

Tuesday, 21 May. Kyrgyzstan

Where's Your Home, Snail? (dir. Aktan Abdykalykov, 1992)
Formal presentations by Gul'bara Tolomusheva, Miron Chernenko, Elena Stishova
Vitamin Deficiency (dir. Nailia Rakhmadieva, 2000)
The Hood (dir. Dal'mira Tilepbergenova, 2001)
The Fly Up (dir. Marat Sarulu, 2002)
Monkey/Maimyl (dir. Aktan Abdykalykov, 2001)
The Ford (dir. Andrei Dobrovol'skii, Georgii Dul'tsevoi, 1987)

Wednesday, 22 May. Uzbekistan

The Emir's Secret Journey (dir. Farid Davletshin, 1986)
Roundtable with graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh: Seth Graham (Slavic), Gerald McCausland (Slavic), Petre Petrov (Slavic), Dawn Seckler (Slavic), and Daniel Wild (Film Studies)
The Dance of Men (dir. Iusup Razykov, 2002)

Thursday, 23 May. Tadjikistan

Blessed Bukhara (dir. Bako Sadykov, 1991)
Formal presentations by Nina Tsyrkun and Tat'iana Moskvina (Moscow)
Foreign Laborer/Mardikor (dir. Mairam Iusupova, 2002)

Friday, 24 May. Turkmenistan

Earthquake's Children (dir. Murat Aliev, 1997)
Formal presentations by Dmitrii Karavaev and Andrei Shemiakin
Legend of the Ancient Mountains (dir. Iazgeldy Seidov, 1988)

Closing Banquet

Imperial Fatigue 2. The Films of Aleksandr Ptushko

Carnegie Museum of Art and the Russian Film Symposium will screen a series of four films by Soviet director Aleksandr Ptushko in brand new 35mm, English-subtitled prints of the restored original Russian-language versions. These prints are the result of a seven-year long restoration project between the American Cinematheque (Los Angeles) and Seagull Films (New York), with support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding and George Gund III. The films include The New Gulliver (USSR, 1935), The Stone Flower (USSR, 1946), Sadko (USSR, 1953), and Viy (USSR, 1967).

Aleksandr Ptushko (1900-1973) has frequently (and somewhat inaccurately) been called "the Red M?i?" and "the Soviet Walt Disney," not just for his pioneering work in stop-motion animation in his pre-World War II films, but also for the way his post-war acted films are grounded in the narrative traditions and national consciousness of Soviet (and now Russian) citizens.  In fact, Ptushko's films are as remarkable for their technological innovations as they are for their visual celebration of Russian oral epics, fairy tales, and stories.

Ptushko's filmmaking career stretches across three distinct periods of Soviet political and cultural history: from the onset of Joseph Stalin's "cult of personality" (1934-1953), through Nikita Khrushchev's Thaw (1956-1964), and into Leonid Brezhnev's Stagnation (1964-1982).  Despite the marked differences of these three periods of Soviet history in political administration, state control over the arts, and cultural practices, Ptushko consistently directed films that enjoyed enormous popular success with both the Party elite and the general public.  Surprisingly, there has been no systematic study of Ptushko's films either in Russia or in the West.

Aleksandr Ptushko

Aleksandr Ptushko ("an ordinary genius," by his own description) was born in Lugansk, Ukraine.  Between 1923 and 1926 he studied at the Moscow Agricultural Institute, supporting himself by working as a reporter, actor, and artistic designer.  In 1927 he started to work as a designer of puppets for use in stage and screen productions, but by 1928 he directed his first short stop-motion animation films featuring Bratishkin (a character who appears in several films, initially as a puppet, but later as a cut-out figure): Incident at the Stadium (1928; no print survives), The Encoded Document (1928; no print survives), A Hundred Adventures (1929; no print survives), and Film to the Countryside (1930; no print survives).

In 1932 Ptushko joined the faculty of the State Institute for Filmmaking (VGIK) in Moscow, where he taught until 1949 as director of the Artistic Department.  As part of his duties at the Institute, Ptushko also wrote several monographs on film aesthetics and techniques that were aimed at specialists and general readers: Special Techniques of Filming (with L. Sukharebskii, 1930), Animation (1931), Composite and Trick Filmmaking (with N. Rynkovyi, 1948), and The Miracles of Cinema (1949).

In 1932, Ptushko also made the first sound puppet-animation film, The Lord of Daily Life, and in 1935 (two years before Walt Disney released Snow White!), Ptushko directed New Gulliver, the first full-length feature film in history to combine live-action footage with stop-motion animation, using more than 3,000 separate puppet characters, "most of them around three inches high. Variously made of clay, rubber, metal, wood, and cloth, each puppet had from two to 300 heads, depending on its expressions. Thus the puppets had to be manipulated and shifted, frame by frame, in a highly labor-intensive technique Ptushko called ?multiplication'"(J. Hoberman, "Plastic Fantastic," The Village Voice, 19-25 December 2001).  While serving as the head of Mosfilm's Puppet Animation Section, Ptushko directed several additional animation films, including The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish (1937) and The Jolly Musicians (1937).  In his last film of the pre-war period, The Golden Key (1939), Ptushko returned to combining stop-motion animation with live-action footage.

After World War II Ptushko turned to adapting texts (oral and written) for the screen: The Stone Flower (1946), Three Meetings (co-directed with Sergei Iutkevich and Vsevolod Pudovkin, 1948), Sadko (1953), Il'ia Muromets (1956), Sampo (1959), Scarlet Sails (1961), The Tale of Lost Time (1964), The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1966), and Ruslan and Liudmila (1972).  He also served as artistic director and filming supervisor for Konstantin Ershov's and Georgii Kropachev's debut film Viy (1967), based on Gogol''s story.

Ptushko's popularity with cinema-goers reached its apogee during the post-war stage of his career, starting with The Stone Flower―the most attended film in the Soviet Union in 1946 (more than 23 million viewers)―which won the International Prize for Color at the Cannes Film Festival.  The film was also awarded the USSR State Prize in 1947.  At the Venice Film Festival in 1953, Ptushko's Sadko received the Silver Lion, the festival's most prestigious prize.  In 1956, Ptushko released Il'ia Muromets, the first Soviet film shot in stereo and for the wide-screen (CinemaScope).  This film also made the Guinness Book of World Records for using the largest number of horses in a single film (over 11,000).

The popularity of Ptushko's films was not limited to viewing audiences in the Soviet Union.  Although his films were based on Russian fairy tales and fantastical stories, Ptushko's originality of visual composition, intermixing of puppets with live-action sequences, and strong narrative drive allowed his films easily to cross national and cultural boundaries.  In the United States, several of his films were re-edited, re-photographed from the original CinemaScope format to distorted pan-and-scan versions, and dubbed into English: Sampo was severely edited and released commercially as The Day the Earth Froze; Il'ia Muromets was shortened and released as The Sword and the Dragon.  Perhaps the most famous story of Ptushko's assimilation into American film culture concerns the fate of Sadko.  In 1962, Roger Corman, the undisputed "king of B-movies," purchased the rights to the film and shot a short, inexpensive "American" introductory sequence.  He then hired Francis Ford Coppola to recut the Russian original.  The film was released in the US as The Magic Voyage of Sinbad.

In 1969, four years before his death, Aleksandr Ptushko was awarded the honorary title of People's Artist of the USSR.

Thu Sep 26 - The New Gulliver (USSR, 1935)
Thu Oct 3 - 
The Stone Flower (USSR, 1946)
Thu Oct 10 -
Sadko (USSR, 1953)
Thu Oct 17
Viy (USSR, 1967)

Repeat Screenings

Sat Sep 28 - The New Gulliver(USSR, 1935)
Sat Oct 5 - The Stone Flower (USSR, 1946)
Sat Oct 12 - Sadko (USSR, 1953)
Sat Oct 19 - Viy (USSR, 1967)

Global Amnesia 3. Central Asian Cinema and Film Genres

The Symposium is supported by the Carnegie Museum of Art, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Russian and East European Studies, andtheGraduate Program for Cultural Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Museum of Art and the Russian Film Symposium will screen a series of four films by contemporary Central Asian filmmakers, in culmination of the series Global Amnesia organized by the symposium in 2002.

All films will be shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Saturday screenings begin at 7.30pm, and Sunday screenings at 5pm. Admission to all screenings will be free with a valid Pitt ID.

The three events of Global Amnesia have all examined the cinema of Central Asia, but the focus has been continually shifting.

Central to the first part of the series, Global Amnesia 1: Central Asian Cinema, 1990-2001 (Pittsburgh), was the West's periodic re-discovery (most evident in the international film-festival circuit) of the region's film industries: the Kyrgyz and Uzbek "waves" from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, the "new Kazakh wave" of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Tadjik "wave" of the mid-1990s, and now the Kyrgyz and Kazakh "wave" of the late 1990s and beginning of the 21st century. In their attempts to make sense of the bursts of innovative energy in this region, Western film critics have consistently moved the Soviet or Russian presence into the deep background, where it remained unexplored and all but invisible.

The second part of the series, Global Amnesia and the Politics of Cultural Space: Contemporary Central Asian Cinema (Moscow), was dominated by the mutual exchange of gazes between the film community from the Russian Federation and that of Central Asia–that is, between a former center and a former periphery. Within this exchange, "national identity," "Russianness," and "the Soviet experience" moved into the center of the examination. On the most basic levels, generations of Central Asian filmmakers had received virtually all of their professional training in Moscow, at the State Institute for Filmmaking (VGIK), where they studied, spoke, and produced work in Russian; where master classes were run by major Soviet (read "Russian") directors, scriptwriters, and cameramen; and where the dominant ethnic values and aesthetic traditions were at odds with those of the periphery.

The final part of the series, Global Amnesia 3: Central Asian Cinema and Film Genres (Pittsburgh), reverses the direction of the gaze entirely. Central to this part is the appropriation of Western (and Eastern) film genres–film noir, the road film, the samurai film and the spaghetti Western, the magic journey–by a new generation of Central Asia filmmakers. Some Western and Russian critics argue that mastery of the film industry's dominant genres is proof that recent Central Asian films are directed primarily at a international film-festival audience, not a domestic one, either regional or national. Others claim, citing the same visual texts and textual evidence, that recent Central Asian films present one of the clearest demonstrations of the ability of the local to integrate into and transform the global.

The four films in this third part of the series–three Kazakh and one Tadjik (all made between 1991 and 2001)–have been selected because each of them openly acknowledges and celebrates a film genre not traditional to the region, while at the same time transforming that genre with its innovative–i.e., non-Western–tropes, editing rhythm, and cultural references.

Sat Nov 16 - Darezhan Omirbaev, Killer (Kazakhstan, France, 1998)
Sat Nov 23 - Darezhan Omirbaev, The Road (France, Kazakhstan, Japan, 2001)
Sat Nov 30 - Ardak Amirkulov, The Fall of Otrar (Kazakhstan, 1991)
Sat Dec 7 - Bakhtier Khudoinazarov, Kosh ba kosh (Tadjikistan, Switzerland, 1993)

Repeat screenings

Sun Nov 17 - Darezhan Omirbaev, Killer (Kazakhstan, France, 1998)
Sun Nov 24 - Darezhan Omirbaev, The Road (France, Kazakhstan, Japan, 2001)
Sun Dec 1 - Ardak Amirkulov, The Fall of Otrar (Kazakhstan, 1991)
Sun Dec 8 - Bakhtier Khudoinazarov, Kosh ba kosh (Tadjikistan, Switzerland, 1993)

Imperial Fatigue 3. Visions of Empire: Nikita Mikhalkov's Barber of Siberia

This rare 35mm screening is sponsored and was organized by the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. University co-sponsors include the University Center for International Studies, the Graduate Program for Cultural Studies, and the Pittsburgh Russian Film Symposium. Special thanks to Michel Seydoux atCamera One (Paris).

The Barber of Siberia poster

The screening of The Barber of Siberia will take place at 8pm, Friday 22 November, 2003 in the Alumni Hall Screening Room. Birgit Beumers (University of Bristol, UK), will introduce the film.

Russia, 1885. Eccentric American inventor Douglas McKracken arrives in Moscow with his daughter, Jane, intent on winning the monarchy's approval to develop and use his mammoth tree-cutting machine, the Barber of Siberia, in the Russian taiga. Jane has a chance encounter on the train with young Andrei Tolstoi (no relation), coincidentally a cadet at the military academy whose commanding officer, General Radlov, is the intended target of the seductively charming Jane's powers of persuasion as she helps McCracken obtain his permits. A tragic love triangle develops when both Tolstoi and Radlov fall in love with her. The young cadet ultimately makes a fateful decision that demonstrates his devotion both to his beloved and to the honor code of Russian officers, leaving Jane in permanent awe of the emotional intensity and inscrutability of the Russian soul.

"He's Russian. That explains a lot."
–Marketing slogan for The Barber of Siberia

Promotional Web site: http://mikhalkov.comstar.ru/

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