From May 5th through May 10th, the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers will present the 16th annual Russian Film Symposium, which showcases and discusses the best of new Russian cinema. In keeping with this year’s theme Gendering Genre, the event will examine how gender and genre stereotypes are foregrounded and subverted in recent Russian cinema, which has seen a focus on two genres: “woman friendly” romantic comedies (usually set in Moscow or Saint Petersburg) and gritty, masculine dramas about everyday life (usually set in the provinces). See a list of films and showtimes below:
Till Night Do Us Part
In Moscow’s most extravagant restaurant, anything can happen. Based on real overheard conversations, this satirical comedy lifts the lid on the scandalous lives of Muscovites and the passions and intrigues of the staff. Director Boris Khlebnikov’s Altman-esque comedy is not to be missed. Till Night Do Us Part screens at 10 a.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
The dissimilar brothers Vlad and Andrej have competed with each other all their lives. Vlad, who is gay, plays the bass in an orchestra. Andrej is a successful banker. After their father’s death, the two must care for their grieving mother together. Luckily, she makes excellent pelmeni– meat-filled pasta dumplings – a mutual favorite dish that at least unites the very different brothers at the dinner table. Dumpling Brothers screens at 2 p.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
In this work from the late Alexey Balabanov (Brat), a huge black SUV rolls down a desolate summer road. In it are the Bandit, his friend Matthew with his old father, the Musician, and a beautiful girl. They are looking for the Bell Tower of Happiness which, according to rumors, is located somewhere between St. Petersburg and Uglich, near an abandoned nuclear power plant. The Bell Tower takes people away; not everyone, however. But each person in the huge black vehicle believes that he will be one of the chosen. Me Too screens at 10 a.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
Director Ivan Vyrypaev combines seven short films about a famous dancer, who created a breathtaking dance she called the Delhi Dance. All the stories take place at the same location — a city hospital, where characters meet, love, suffer loss of their loved ones, and try to find harmony. Each standalone film has its own storyline and conclusion, but together they compose a full-fledged piece of work. Delhi Dance screens at 2 p.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
At the heart of this story from filmmaker Kira Muratova are Him and Her, two former schoolmates who haven’t crossed paths for a long time. One day, he arrives in her city to visit her and ask her advice: he’s in love with two women at once, and doesn’t know what to do. Eternal Homecoming screens at 10 a.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
The movie tells “behind the door” stories of Russian middle class people and the secrets they hide from others. These people have grown up, learned how to make love and money, but not how to be happy. They are opposed by the main character Ivan, a scandal photographer who preaches absolute freedom and portrays people in entirely and the only sincere way – at least that is how he sees it. But is the freedom to be yourself safe? Intimate Parts screens at the Melwood Screening Room at 7:30 p.m.
Director Larisa Sadilova’s sixth feature focuses on the life of migrant workers from former Soviet republics and on their encounters with local Russian people. The film follows a young Tajik girl, Maija (Nilufar Faizieva), who flies to Russia following her fiancé, Khamid (Makhsum Abdullaev), where he works as a guest worker and lives in the slums with other workers like him. He promises to marry her, but eventually leaves her with barely known people and returns back to Tajikistan for a marriage arranged by his parents. She screens at 10 a.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
Following a brawl, Captain Ignat, who is traumatised by the death of his daughter, is ordered together with a regular soldier to find a deserter and bring him back via Moscow to stand before a military court. Although they locate the young soldier, their journey across the wintry moloch that is Moscow is slow and tortuous. Before long, the unlikely trio find themselves drawn into a chaotic maelstrom of violence, corruption, criminality, degradation, and squalidness. Convoy screens at the Melwood Screening Room at 7:30 p.m.
A Winter Journey
Music student and gifted singer, Erik, is preparing to sing Schubert’s Winterreise for a competition. As his teacher slams him for his poor performance, Erik’s life is changed irrevocably by a chance meeting with Lyokha, a coarse and aggressive petty criminal. Set in the three days leading up to the competition, the film is a raw and evocative portrayal of alienation and transgression. A Winter Journey screens at 10 a.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari
As in his previous film, the internationally successful Silent Souls (Ovsyanki), director Alexey Fedorchenko sets out for the Volga region to reveal to viewers the way of life of the Mari, a Finno-Ugric nation that still maintains a number of traditional rituals originating from paganism. While Silent Souls is a meditation on the last things of man and a portrayal of this people’s burial ritual, Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari is an energetic celebration of love, of womanhood and of the joy of life. This mosaic of twenty-two short tales about Mari women, which the director himself has described as a “Mari Decameron,” sees Fedorchenko blending reality with folklore and fairytale motifs with erotica in a playful style all his own. Twenty-two stories about twenty-two different women, all exuding an infectious energy. Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari screens at 2 p.m. at Wesley W. Posvar Hall 1500 on the University of Pittsburgh – Oakland campus.
A recent graduate of MGU, Eva has a new job, friends, and Denis, her doting boyfriend. She fears, however, the house with the white picket fence: a predictable life with marriage and children void of adventure. Although Denis is deeply in love with her, she perceives their relationship to be the root of her ennui. In search of something better, she dumps him and embarks on a string of dating mishaps in Ekaterina Telegina’s feature film debut. Break-Up Habit screens at the Melwood Screening Room at 7:30 p.m.
Director Vasilii Sigarev depicts three variations on coping with the sudden loss of loved ones—of a husband, of children, and of a father. Grishka (Iana Troianova) frequently characterizes herself and her fiancé Anton (often called Mama) as “mental”; their wedding is marked by the absence of friends and family. Galia Kapustina (Ol’ga Lapshina) is a recovering alcoholic who struggles to prove to social services that she is a fit mother. The young boy Artem, who resists his mother with a sullen demeanor, seems unlikely to grow up into a well-adjusted adult. Yet they also clearly scrabble for respectable lives: Grishka’s wedding to Anton is only the beginning of a well-ordered future; Kapustina has won back the right to raise her children; and Artem strives to defend his absent father. Their very inadequacies and wasted efforts make the losses of their loved ones even more raw. Living screens at the Melwood Screening Room at 7:30 p.m.
The event will also feature talks and round table discussions with recognized Russian film scholars and critics working in Russia, the UK, and the US, including ArtDocFest festival director Viktoriia Belopol’skaia, film scholar and critic Anzhelika Artiukh, author Philip Cavendish, and Russian documentary cinema specialist Jeremy Hicks. See the Russian Film Symposium schedule for more details. Day screenings at Posvar Hall are free. Evening screenings at Melwood Theater are $8 regular admission, $7 for seniors and students, and $4 for Pitt and Art Institute students.