About Kira Stealthily
О Кире украдкой 2019
Точное время 2017
Stasya is Me
Стася—это я 2020
11:00 AM - 1:30 PM EDT
11:00 AM - 1:30 PM EDT
(2017) 26 min
Stasya is Me
(2020) 60 min
Curator: Dinara Garifullina (University of Pittsburgh)
Introduced by: Bella Grigoryan (University of Pittsburgh)
Respondent: Anastasia Kostina (Yale University)
Discussion Host: Dinara Garifullina (University of Pittsburgh)
Contemporary Russian Documentary Cinema
Eve Barden and Dinara Garifullina — Documentaries allegedly have a direct correspondence with reality. This kind of cinema can both reflect and influence reality. The capacity for affecting reality can be used by documentarists either for purposes of propaganda (to establish and to preserve the status quo) or for purposes of exposé (to change the status quo).
Not surprisingly, in the early years of the USSR the first purpose for documentaries (as 1920s propaganda) was promoted, while the second purpose (exposé) was less dominant. The decades between the 1920s and the 1980s have given us numerous examples of artistically unique and politically bold documentary films. Working in the young Soviet state, Dziga Vertov redefined the parameters of non-fiction film on a global scale with formal experimentation, enthusiastic content, and ontological questioning of the medium.
If we may speed ahead sixty years, in the second half of the 1980s, documentaries become one of the weapons of glasnost and perestroika, in particular as part of the movement for national self-identification in the Soviet republics (including the Russian SSR). The acerbic tone, critical drive, and desire to broach hitherto forbidden topics define, for example, the documentaries made by Marina Goldovskaia or Sergei Bukovskii. In the 1990s, documentarists, fatigued by the vociferous political and social slogans of the previous decade, found refuge in the production of films about the periphery; about the intimate side of people’s lives; or about obscure topics (eternity, indeterminacy, philosophical expositions).
In this vein, the later, quiet documentaries about the forlorn Russian countryside and its denizens might be collected into a separate subgenre: for example, those films by Lidiia Bobrova, Sergei Loznitsa, and Pavel Kostomarov of the early 2000s). Later (after this vulnerable start), the documentary mode of cinema become more prevalent and institutionalized in Russia.
A new national award in documentary cinema was established in 2000—the Laurel Branch (Lavrovaia vetv'). In 2007, Artdocfest, an international documentary film festival, was established by the organizers of Laurel Branch. In 2015, DOKer, an international documentary film festival was established in Moscow. And in 2009, the Marina Razbezhkina founded her renowned School of Documentary Films and Theatre.
If we may again fast forward to today, our story brings us to 2021, when the Russian Film Symposium presents three filmmakers—Irina Vasil'eva, Tat'iana Stefanenko, and Stasia Grankovskaia —who successfully participated in these and other Russian and international documentary festivals. Tat'iana Stefanenko graduated from Razbezhkina’s school in 2017, and Exact Time is her final project in that school.
In many places throughout the globe, documentaries get their long-deserved due, aided by two features: first, the proliferation of technological means to produce film; and second, the broadening of the audience base to a global scale, thanks to public media platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Mushrooming institutions of documentary cinema, such as festivals, schools, and workshops contribute to a new, more significant, status of documentary cinema in contemporary Russia. At the same time, in the last few years, the critical potential of documentaries is increasingly perceived by the Russian authorities as undesirable. The destiny of documentary cinema in Russia has become precarious. The 2014 exile of Artdocfest to Latvia is a symptom of this process.
Documentary film—as a cinematic mode, as a record, or even a document—has a complex relationship with history, historicism, and human memory. All filmmakers in our documentary section directly reflect upon the passage of time and human attachment to the fleeting moment. Specifically, Irina Vasil'eva’s camera-eye and editor’s hand creates a fluid and multi-faceted meta-portrait of an absent person through interviews, objects, reflections, film clips, and other artefacts as indices of presence. The film is “stealthily” built around the fact that filmmaker Kira Muratova is no longer there, yet she is present between the frames of the films she has made, between the words of the letters she has written; she exists through the reverberations between events and people who had known her. She lives through the physical changes she brought about into the world.
Tat'iana Stefanenko and Stasia Grankovskaia, in their turn, reflect on the intricacies of post-Soviet time. While Stefanenko’s film urges the viewer to think about an overarching relationship between Soviet and post-Soviet temporalities in a metaphysical fashion, Grankovskaia’s film demonstrates how these temporalities are inhabited and lived by one family.
What happens when you point the camera and hit the record button? In her article “Mirrors without Memories: Truth, History, and the New Documentary,” film scholar Linda Williams talks about the crisis of representation seen in documentary films in the digital age. The camera lies; the camera constructs utopias akin to Dziga Vertov’s Cine-Eye. The camera does not simply reflect, but indeed forges truths and memories; memory is, as Mary Ann Doane famously put it, “in the reverberations between events.” This ephemeral space—existing beyond specific time and place where the camera hauntologically reveals the elements of the past to conjure “ghosts” made out of these reverberations—is the non-place explored by Irina Vasil'eva at Kira Muratova’s private residence, the long-gone yet vibrantly present subject of About Kira Stealthily.
To continue for a moment with this idea of historical haunting and overlapping temporalities, Tat'iana Stefanenko’s film is about the Moscow research institute of time, where the frustrated staff and obsolete machines seem to be out of sync with modern Russia. Stasia Grankovskaia in her film pieces together 1990s home video footage and contemporary family chronicles, demonstrating the layering of time based on the example of one family. In this gesture of creative editing that results in original films, Grankovskaia inherits the long tradition of Soviet women documentary filmmakers, such as Esfir' Shub or Elizaveta Svilova. We welcome your responses to the films offered here and to the ongoing discussion about the fragile status of documentary filmmaking in Russia today.