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November 4 - November 5

The Films of Sergei Dvortsevoy

Born in Kazakhstan, Sergei Dvortsevoy worked as an aviation engineer before studying film in Moscow in the early 1990s.  His films immediately garnered international acclaim, receiving prizes and recognition at festivals around the world, including the nomination of Bread Day (1998) for the prestigious Joris Ivens Award at the Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival.  The following year his work was presented at the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, an institution dedicated to Flaherty’s adherence to the goal of seeing and depicting the human condition.  Intimate and elegant, Dvortsevoy’s documentaries are committed to observational filmmaking.  His subjects—people living in and around a Russia in transition—try in their individual ways to eke out an existence. With a keen eye for the poetry and mystery of everyday life, and without narration or other forms of external exposition, Dvortsevoy proposes: “observe together with me quietly and everything will happen” (Dvortsevoy).

This program is co-presented with the FilmStudyCenter at Harvard.  Special thanks to Lucien Taylor and Jane Balfour.


November 4 (Saturday) 7 pm

Paradise

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy
Kazakhstan 1996, 35mm, b/w, 25 min.
Kazakh with English subtitles

Dvortsevoy’s first film is a portrait of a nomad shepard and his family camped in the Southern mountains of Kazakhstan.  Unforgettable images—of a toddler fighting sleep to eat his bowl of sour cream, a camel undergoing nose piercing by pocket knife—combine in a mesmerizing documentation of life lived in a
forbidding landscape.

 

Highway

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy
Kazakhstan 1999, 35mm, color, 57 min.
Kazakh with English subtitles

The highway of the title refers to a 2,000 mile stretch of dirt road in remote Kazakhstan.  Along this route a traveling family circus journeys in their crowded hand-cranked bus, stopping in villages to perform feats of strength and skill.  The filmmaker accompanies the Tadjibajevs, capturing their quarrels, performances, and intimate domestic moments.  Observing their daily life in all of its routine and mystery, Dvortsevoy creates “a testament to the magical power of film to transport the onlooker into other lives and distant lands, to kindle contemplation, offer perspective and excite with the poetic beauty of exotic images” (Lawrence Van Gelder).

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November 5 (Sunday) 7:30 pm

Bread Day

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy
Russia 1998, 35mm, b/w, 55 min.
Russian with English Subtitles

Bread Day unflinchingly depicts a community of pensioners living in near isolation outside of St. Petersberg as it enacts the weekly ritual of bringing a delivery of bread—left at a rail junction two hours away—into the village for distribution.  Dvortsevoy documents the struggle as the elderly residents complete their arduous task and then gather in the store, where portions are unsatisfactory and interactions grow heated.  Attentive as much to the people as to the landscape and the animals that share it, Dvortsevoy captures village goats and a litter of puppies along with the bleakness of rural poverty and old
age.

In the Dark

Directed by Sergei Dvortsevoy
Russia 2004, 35mm, color, 41 min.
Russian with English subtitles

Moving closer to the urban centers of Russia, Dvortsevoy turns his
camera on an elderly blind man living alone in the suburbs of Moscow.  His one companion is a clever white cat who continually frustrates his work netting the string bags that he takes to the street to give away to passers-by.  Unrelenting in its gaze and simple in its approach, In the Dark quietly reveals the profound pathos of solitude and isolation with humanity and tenderness.

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