Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende

In the spirit of our popular Friday Night Films at the Wende program series, we have curated a list of weekly Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende films that can be watched at home, in conjunction with #WendeOnline. To participate in the series, follow us on social media (FacebookTwitter, and Instagram) or bookmark this page. 


Weekly Screening Selections

 July 30, 2021

 

Jacob the Liar, dir. Frank Beyer, 1974, East Germany, 101 minutes.

In a Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Poland in 1944, Jacob Heym is summoned to the police station. While there, Jacob overhears on the radio that "the Russians are twenty kilometers from Bezanika." The next day he tells this to a despondent friend who is about to commit suicide and the news renews his hope in salvation. As no one would believe the true story, Jacob pretends to have a radio; as no one in the ghetto is allowed to have a radio, however, all are eager to hear news from the outside world and constantly ask Jacob for updates on the advance of the Soviets. Jacob creates fictional reports to help alleviate the unbearable hopelessness of those around him, but his lies cannot stop the machinery that brings death to all the ghetto inhabitants. A bittersweet comedy loaded with human quirks and nuance based on the book by Jurek Becker. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1977, the story was remade in Hollywood starring Robin Williams in 1999.

The Holocaust Museum Los Angeles is presenting a virtual screening and panel discussion on Thursday, July 29, moderated by noted journalist and author Tom Teicholz. The panel will feature Holli Levitsky, Director of the Jewish Studies Program and Professor of English at Loyola Marymount University, Marina Ivanova, Associate Professor of German Film and Media & Academic Director of the DEFA Film Library, and Jon Kean, writer and director of Swimming in Auschwitz. This program is presented in partnership with the Wende Museum.

Click HERE to register and receive a link to the virtual screening room.

The film is also available to watch on Kanopy

July 23, 2021

 

The Other Dream Team, dir. Marius A. Markevičius, 2012, United States and Lithuania, 88 min.

As the U.S. basketball "Dream Team" took the 1992 Olympics by storm, the scrappy team from the newly independent Lithuania sought only to defeat Russia. Their tale involves personal freedom, the end of the Cold War, and, unexpectedly, the Grateful Dead. The film not only looks at the Lithuanian team but also at the broader historical events. The fall of the Soviet Union allowed Lithuania to reestablish its independence and enter the Olympics as an independent country.

The film includes interviews with many famous basketball figures, such as Arvydas Sabonis, David Stern, Jim Lampley, Bill Walton, and Šarūnas Marčiulionis. The title is an allusion to the Dream Team, the first American Olympic basketball team to feature active NBA players.

Available to rent on Youtube, Google Play, Vudu, and Amazon Prime.  

July 16, 2021

 

Gena the Crocodile, dir. Roman Kachanov, 1969, Soviet Union, 19 min.

Generations of children have grown up with the classic Soviet stop motion animation series Cheburashka, directed by Roman Kachanov and adapted from Eduard Uspensky's children’s stories. The four short films (1969–83) tell tales about fitting in and friendship. In the first film, the accordion-playing Crocodile Gena, who "works" at the zoo, posts handwritten advertisements all over town in order to find friends. He meets the misfit Cheburashka, a floppy-eared creature who came to Russia by accident in a box of oranges. Cheburashka remains an enduring cultural icon in Eastern Europe and has achieved international fame.

This week's film selection is presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces lunchtime talk on "Animal Space: The Cold War of the Berlin Zoos."

Watch for free on Youtube.

July 9, 2021

Little Vera, dir. Vasili Pichul, 1988, Soviet Union, 135 min.

The most sensational film of the perestroika period, Vasily Pichul’s grittily realistic Little Vera casts a demystifying gaze upon Soviet myths of the working class family. The script by Maria Khmelik was written years before the movie was made and initially was considered unfilmable. The film depicts aspects of Soviet life—alcoholism, hopelessness, and sexuality above all—with unprecedented candor, and stands as a precursor to contemporary Russian “documentary” theatrical and cinematic practice.

Watch on Youtube or rent on Soviet Movies Online

July 2, 2021

 

Son of the White Mare, dir.  Marcell Jankovics, 1981, Hungary, 86 min.

One of the great psychedelic masterpieces of world animation, Son of the White Mare is a swirling, color-mad maelstrom of mythic monsters and Scythian heroes: part-Nibelungenlied, part-Yellow Submarine, lit by jagged bolts of lightning and drenched in rivers of blue, red, gold, and green. A massive cosmic oak stands at the gates of the Underworld, holding seventy-seven dragons in its roots. To combat these monsters, a dazzling white mare goddess gives birth to three heroes—Treeshaker and his brothers—who embark on an epic journey to save the universe. Directed by Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics (famed for his 1974 Oscar-nominated short Sisyphus), Son of the White Mare has been restored in 4K using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements by Los Angeles-based Arbelos in collaboration with the Hungarian National Film Institute. After circulating underground for decades, it was released in the U.S. for the first time in 2020.

Available to stream for free on Kanopy, or rent from Arbelos.

June 25, 2021

 

The Color of Pomegranates, dir. Sergei Parajanov, 1969, Soviet Union

A breathtaking fusion of poetry, ethnography, and cinema, Sergei Parajanov’s masterwork overflows with unforgettable images and sounds. In a series of tableaux that blend the tactile with the abstract, The Color of Pomegranates revives the splendors of Armenian culture through the story of the eighteenth-century troubadour Sayat-Nova, charting his intellectual, artistic, and spiritual growth through iconographic compositions rather than traditional narrative. The film’s tapestry of folklore and metaphor departed from the realism that dominated the Soviet cinema of its era, leading authorities to block its distribution, with rare underground screenings presenting it in a restructured form. This edition features the cut closest to Parajanov’s original vision, in a restoration that brings new life to one of cinema’s most enigmatic meditations on art and beauty.

Click here to learn more about the filmmaker.

The film is available to rent on Amazon Prime, Google Play, Criterion Channel, or for free (censored version) on Youtube.

June 18, 2021

Coming Out, dir. Heiner Carow, 1989, East Germany, 113 min.

Hailed as the first and only feature film about gay life ever produced in communist East Germany, Coming Out is the story of a young teacher named Philipp Klarmann and his journey to sexual awareness.

Directed by Heiner Carow, the film premiered the night the Berlin Wall opened on November 9, 1989. Filmed in part on location at gay hangouts in East Berlin, including the Friedrichshain Volkspark and the bars Schoppenstube und Zum Burgfrieden in Prenzlauer Berg, Coming Out was one of the last films made by DEFA, the East German State Film Studio, and it was the only queer-centered feature film that it produced.

The film is free to watch on Kanopy with a library card.

June 11, 2021

 

Cruising Birobidzhan, dir. Yevgeniy Fiks, 2016, United States, 35 min.

In the video project Cruising Birobidzhan, New York-based Russian artist and researcher Yevgeniy Fiks juxtaposes official propaganda photographs of Soviet-era Birobidzhan (the Soviet Jewish Autonomous Region) with audio of a discussion set in New York in 2016 featuring post-Soviet LGBTQIs considering the (im)possibility of “queer” or “gay” utopia against the background of the real history of Birobidzhan.

The project was featured in Fiks's exhibition Pleshka-Birobidzhan (2016) at Station Independent Projects in New York. It engaged the relationship between identity, fiction, and history by recreating in an art installation a tale about a group of Soviet gay men who traveled from Moscow to Birobidzhan in 1934.

Watch on yevgeniyfiks.com.

June 4-8, 2021

APPLE IN THE RIVER / ĀBOLS UPĒ, dir. Aivars Freimanis, 1974, Latvia, 76 min, 35mm-to-digital.

Baltic Modernist Cinema: Between Imaginary and Real is a free online film series presented by Anthology Film Archives until June 8. Devoted to the Baltic cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, the series showcases three films each from Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Traditional accounts of world cinema of this era invariably emphasize filmmakers’ newfound experimentation with the conventions of their medium, and their increasing exploration of subjectivity, self-referentiality, abstraction, and radical new approaches to storytelling. This type of cinema found its place in the Baltics too, where a group of directors broke with the dominant conventions of filmmaking that had previously held sway. During the second half of the 20th century, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian filmmakers, many of whom graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, aka VGIK, left their mark on the history of modernist European cinema, echoing the uncompromising film style of the various global “New Waves” and, at the same time, implicitly reflecting the cultural specificity of the Baltic states incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Due to the Iron Curtain, Baltic films would rarely reach Western screens. While certain Soviet film auteurs have been much celebrated in the U.S. and around the world, the Baltic filmmakers of the era have remained virtually unknown. This series aims to remedy that situation, by showcasing nine feature films—ranging from allegorical fictions to realist visions of the everyday—by the most renowned Baltic film directors of the period. Each broke with the dominant conventions of filmmaking that had previously held sway and left their respective marks on the history of modernist European cinema.


Read more about the films at anthologyfilmarchives.org, and view for free on Vimeo until June 8.

 

May 28, 2021
Knife in the Water, dir. Roman Polanski, 1962, Poland, 96 min.

Roman Polanski’s first feature is a brilliant psychological thriller that many critics still consider among his greatest work. The story is simple, yet the implications of its characters’ emotions and actions are profound. When a young hitchhiker joins a couple on a weekend yacht trip, psychological warfare breaks out as the two men compete for the woman’s attention. A storm forces the small crew below deck, and tension builds to a violent climax. With stinging dialogue and a mercilessly probing camera, Polanski creates a disturbing study of fear, humiliation, sexuality, and aggression. This remarkable directorial debut was his only film made in Poland, his home country, before emigrating. It won Polanski worldwide acclaim, a place on the cover of “Time,” and his first Oscar nomination.

Watch for free on Kanopy, or with a subscription to the Criterion Channel or HBO Max

 

May 21, 2021

 

State Funeral, dir. Sergei Loznitsa, 2019, 135 min.

This mesmerizing documentary from Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa assembles unique, mostly unseen archival footage that presents the funeral of Joseph Stalin. The news of Stalin's death on March 5, 1953, shocked the entire Soviet Union and his burial ceremony was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. The film observes every stage of the spectacle, described by Pravda newspaper as "the Great Farewell," offering unprecedented access to the dramatic and absurd experience of life and death under Stalin.

Read more about State Funeral via The Guardian and The New Yorker.

Stream with a subscription to Mubi or attend an in-person screening at select theaters, including the Laemmle Royal in Santa Monica. 

May 14, 2021

 

The Architects, dir. Peter Kahane, East Germany, 1990, 97 min, produced by DEFA Studio.

This somber, finely drawn portrait of life in East Berlin depicts a young architect whose goals are strangled by the communist dogma of an older generation. The Architects was one of the first fiction films to deal with the experience of both East Germany and the unification periods. Filmed as East Germany crumbled and the Berlin Wall was dismantled, the crew had to rebuild the Wall to shoot the final scenes. 

Daniel has high hopes as he pulls a team together to design a vibrant community center for a new housing development. When the nonconformist plans are rejected, he starts feeling alienated. His colleagues increasingly leave him alone. Even his wife becomes despondent—like so many others, she’d like to move to West Germany with their daughter. When she does, Daniel is left to wonder what happened to his country and its people.

The film is free to watch on Kanopy.

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: White Nights
May 7, 2021

 

White Nights, dir. Taylor Hackford, 1985, United States , 137 min.

After a plane crash in Siberia, a Soviet ballet dancer who defected to the United States is sent to stay with an American tap dancer who defected to the Soviet Union. White Nights pairs legends Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, brought together behind the Iron Curtain by Cold War–era intrigue. The film costars Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini, her American debut. Twyla Tharp contributed choreography, and the film spawned two hit songs: the Phil Collins/Marilyn Martin duet “Separate Lives” and Lionel Richie’s Oscar-winning “Say You, Say Me.” 

Locations in Finland, the UK, and Portugal stand-in for the USSR, but the director arranged for secret filming of exterior shots in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg.)

Available to rent on most streaming platforms for $2.99 or $3.99.

April 30, 2021

 

I Am Twenty, dir. Marlen Khutsiev,1965, Soviet Union, 165 min

Three lifelong friends who return to Moscow after their military service— and whose fathers had been killed in the war—see their aspirations juxtaposed against everyday life in 1960s Soviet Union. They reflect on their possible futures and their place in society. Featuring non-staged events such as a May Day parade and a poetry reading, the film creates both a view of city life in Moscow and an intimate coming-of-age story.

Brought under scrutiny after Ilyich’s Gate (labelled “morally sick” by Khrushchev), the great Soviet filmmaker Marlen Khutsiev drastically re-edited this generational portrait into I Am Twenty. Reminiscent of the French New Wave, it captured the angst and anxiety of the Khrushchev Thaw. 

Watch for free on Kanopy or with a subscription to Mubi

April 23, 2021

A Berlin Romance, dir. Gerhard Klein, East Germany, 1956, 78 min.

Set in mid-1950s Berlin–before the construction of the Wall–Uschi, a salesgirl and aspiring fashion model from the East, is attracted to Hans, from the West. But she also loves the bright shop windows in his part of the city. The flashiness of this new world soon evaporates, however, when Hans loses his job.

Inspired by Italian neorealism and shot on location in East and West Berlin, this cross-border romance precisely depicts daily life in the divided city before the Wall. It is now considered one of the most accurate portrayals of the Cold War Berlin youth scene during the 1950s. The film’s frank images of youthful dreams and longings found little support among East German officials, who thought it encouraged East German young people to search for adventure in West Germany.

Available to stream for free on Kanopy

 

April 16, 2021

 

Khraniteli, dir. Natalya Serebryakova, 1991, Soviet Union, 115 min

A decade before the release of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, a Soviet version of JRR Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, called Khraniteli (1991) aired on Leningrad TV. With its mismatched costumes, ramshackle sets, and rudimentary special effects, the no-budget production managed to create a delightfully trippy adaptation. It was based on the first official translation of Tolkien into Russian, from 1982 (although samizdat translations of the 1954 novel started circulating in the 1960s).

The film was reportedly aired only once before disappearing until 5TV, Leningrad TV’s successor, uploaded it to Youtube late this March, where it has since gathered nearly 2 million views. Andrei Romanov of the band Akvarium narrated the film and created its prog-rock score. 

Free to watch on Youtube.

 

April 9, 2021

 

 

Ewa Partum, Active Poetry. Poem by Ewa, 1971, Poland, 6 minutes

Ewa Partum is one of Poland’s most prominent conceptual artists from the 1960s and 70s and was a forerunner of feminist art in Poland. She has created performances, activities in public space, experimental films, and visual poetry. Their works from the series Active Poetry (1971) are based on a repetition of passages from modernist texts by authors such as James Joyce and Marcel Proust and strategically combine transgression and deconstruction. Here, the artist appropriated cardboard letters that were used in the propaganda slogans displayed on boards in public and work spaces in Poland. She scattered the letters across various landscapes, showing the materiality of language and creating poems shaped by coincidence.  

In conjunction with National Poetry Month and this week’s Cold War Spaces program, we invite you to explore Active Poetry. Poem by Ewa and eight of her other short films, available to watch on the Filmoteka of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw's website.

 


April 2, 2021

 

Winter Adé, dir. Helke Misselwitz, East Germany, 1988, 112 min

Shortly before the GDR’s collapse, Helke Misselwitz traveled by train from one end of the country to the other interviewing East German women of different ages and backgrounds. In this documentary masterpiece, women reveal their personal and professional frustrations, hopes, and aspirations—and, in doing so, paint a portrait of a changing society. The landscape and architecture of East Germany, filmed in B&W on 35mm by Thomas Plenert, form the background to the stories.

This groundbreaking documentary caused a sensation when it premiered at the 1988 Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival. It undermined the official image of women in the GDR and challenged the East German claim to have achieved gender equality. At the same time, postulating a new independence, women talked about their lives more openly than had ever been filmed before. Ironically, the director was in the U.S. touring with the film on the night when the Berlin Wall fell—exactly one year after its premiere.

Available to stream for free on Kanopy.

March 26, 2021

 

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, Jonas Mekas, Lithuania/USA, 1972, 82 min

Jonas Mekas’s diary film lovingly records a return to his native Lithuania after 27 years of absence. The émigré avant-garde pioneer negotiates the trauma of being a “displaced person” by weaving together bittersweet memories with moments of beauty and loss: finding a home in cinema forever.

Jonas and Adolfas Mekas arrived in Brooklyn in 1949. They were former prisoners of German labor camps, exiled from their Lithuanian village. For years the Mekas brothers had no contact with their family, which was put under surveillance because of Jonas's anti-Stalinist stance years earlier. This film is the compelling document of a divided family and their long-delayed reunion.

Read more about the film from the National Gallery of Art’s series Artists, Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960–1990

Watch with a Mubi subscription or rent on Amazon Prime. Watch an excerpt for free on Youtube

 

March 19, 2021

 

Dear Comrades!, dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, 2020, Russia, 120 min

When the government raises food prices in 1962, the rebellious workers from the small industrial town of Novocherkassk go on strike. The ensuing massacre is seen through the eyes of a devout party official as she searches for her daughter. Russia’s entry into the 2021 Academy Awards meticulously reimagines early 1960s Khrushchev-era Russia and is shot in rich black and white to resemble Soviet films made at the time. The film is based on the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre, an event that was covered up by the Soviet government and shrouded in secrecy until the 1990s.

Watch with a subscription to Hulu or rent on other streaming platforms.


March 12, 2021

 

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, dir. Martin Ritt, 1965, United States, 112 mins

At the height of the Cold War, British spy Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) is nearly ready to retire, but first he has to take on one last dangerous assignment. Going deep undercover, he poses as a drunken, disgraced former MI5 agent in East Germany in order to gain information about colleagues who have been captured. When he himself is thrown in jail and interrogated, Leamas finds himself caught in a sinister labyrinth of plots and counter-plots unlike anything in his long career. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a hard-edged and tragic thriller, suffused with the political and social consciousness that defined director Martin Ritt’s career.

Available to stream for free on Kanopy.

Read more about the film in the New Yorker article A Great Cold War Movie.

Presented in conjunction with this week’s Cold War Spaces program Border Space: Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall features in the opening and closing sequences of the film.

February 26, 2021

 

Paul Robeson: Here I Stand, dir. St. Clair Bourne, 1999, United States, 118 mins

This PBS American Masters documentary presents the life of Paul Robeson, the epitome of the 20th-century Renaissance man. The film is directed by St. Clair Bourne and narrated by Ossie Davis. Presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces program “Anti-Racist Space: Paul Robeson Between East and West” with Allison Blakely. 

Watch for free on Youtube

For more on Robeson, see our previous film picks: his silent film screen debut, Body and Soul (1925) on Kanopy or Criterion Channel, and the Academy Award-winning documentary short Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1979) on Criterion Channel

February 19, 2021

   
 

Little Girl of Hanoi, dir. Han Ninh, 1974, Vietnam, 72 min

One of the greatest classics of Vietnamese cinema, The Little Girl of Hanoi offers a rare view of Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Filmed amid the rubble of the recently bombed city, this harrowing tale of a girl searching for her soldier father after losing the rest of her family during a bombardment is a powerful drama and a rare look at urban life in Vietnam during the war. Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum said, “the film is remarkable not only for its sincerity and emotional directness but for its accomplished visual style.” Presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces program with Christina Schwenkel.

Watch for free on Dailymotion Part 1 and Part 2 with English subtitles. 

February 12, 2021

 

Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier, dir. Laurens Grant, 2020, United States, 51 min

America's experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first Black astronaut into orbit. This Smithsonian Channel documentary tells the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the Black astronauts and their families who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

Ed Dwight became the first African American astronaut trainee in the early 1960s, but he was ultimately reassigned and his story largely forgotten. It took 16 years for another African American to be considered for the NASA space program, and another five to send Guion Bluford Jr. into orbit. By then, the USSR had already sent Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, a Cuban astronaut of African descent, into space as part of the Soviet Intercosmos program.

Watch for free on the Smithsonian Channel.

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: The Long Breakup
February 5, 2021

 

The Long Breakup, dir. Katya Soldak, United States, 2019, 85 mins

The Long Breakup is a feature-length documentary about Ukraine’s struggle to escape Russia’s embrace, leave its Soviet past behind and become an independent nation. Ukrainian-American journalist Katya Soldak of Forbes Magazine, now living in New York City, tells the story of her country of origin as it exits the USSR, works through two revolutions, and endures a war—all through the eyes of her family and friends in Kharkiv, a large city near the Russian border.

The documentary takes viewers on an intimate journey that illustrates how big geopolitical changes affect people on a personal level and explores what happens when a nation must fight for the right to choose its future. The tale offers insight into the experience of an immigrant watching her native country go through crises from afar, but, most importantly, it is a personal story about life in the former Soviet republic and the struggle for freedom forming a backdrop to so many lives.

Filmed over the course of a decade, The Long Breakup features an original soundtrack as well as music from Ukrainian and Soviet artists. The film is intended for global audiences with general interests and those interested in the USSR and post-Soviet developments. 

This week’s film selection is presented in conjunction with Soldak’s Cold War Spaces program, Succession Space: Ukraine’s Path to Independence. The film is available through Sunday, February 7. You can access the movie here using the password UkraineKino2021.

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Russian Souvenir and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming
January 29, 2021

Presented in conjunction with Vladimir Paperny's discussion on Hollywood in Moscow, this week's selection is a double feature of Cold War comedies.

Russian Souvenir, dir. Grigori Aleksandrov, 1960, Soviet Union, 101 min

In this musical comedy, an airplane makes an emergency landing on the shores of Lake Baikal. The passengers include an American millionaire, an Italian countess, and the only Soviet citizen among the group—engineer Varvara Komarova, who becomes their guide. Their unexpected visit to a new city in Siberia challenges their preconceptions of the Soviet Union.

Watch for free (without subtitles) on Mosfilm's Youtube channel.

Clips with subtitles will be presented during Paperny's discussion; register here. A recording of Vladimir Paperny's talk will be available shortly after the discussion on our Vimeo page.

The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, dir. Norman Jewison, 1966, United States, 126 min

When a Soviet submarine runs aground in New England, it creates a local panic. Alan Arkin stars in this Golden Globe winning screwball comedy, his first screen appearance. Although the film was made at the height of the Cold War, it was one of few American films to portray Russians in a positive light. 

Watch for free on Pluto TV

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Dau
January 22, 2021

Dau, dir. Ilya Khrzhanovsky et al., 2020–2021, Russia and Ukraine

Filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky (son of animator Andrei Khrzhanovsky) originally conceived of Dau as a biopic about Soviet physicist Lev Landau (nicknamed “Dau”) and the secret research institute where he worked from the late 1930s until his death in 1968. The project mushroomed into an ambitious experiment shot from 2009 to 2011 on a vast set in Ukraine. Thousands of extras and hundreds of non-professional actors, some of whom lived at the institute, participated in the largely unscripted production. Journalists have often called the controversial project the “Stalinist Truman Show” and have compared it to other film productions that have spiraled out of control like Apocalypse Now.

The result is a series of thirteen feature films, two of which premiered last year at the Berlin Film Festival. They combine elements of art film, performance art, and reality TV (but shot by cinematographer Jürgen Jürges on 35mm), and range from the grisly six-hour epic Dau. Degeneration to more restrained personal stories. We recommend Dau. String Theory, which follows a scientist (played by real-life physicist Nikita Nekrasov) as he debates the beauty of string theory, as well as his attempts to explain his theory of free love to a series of women.

Recommended reading:

For more about the history of real-life Soviet scientific communities, watch the Wende’s Cold War Spaces talk Shadow Space: Soviet Secret Cities in Transition: A Conversation with Xenia Vytuleva-Herz and Joes Segal.

A new film is currently being released every week to stream on Dau.com for $3 each. 

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: The Glass Harmonica and There Lived Kolyazin
January 15, 2021

 

The Glass Harmonica, dir. Andrei Khrzhanovsky, 1968, Soviet Union, 19 mins

In this animation about capitalism and control, a musician with a magical glass instrument enlightens a town, only to be removed by a bowler hat-wearing bureaucrat who turns the townspeople grotesque in their frenzy over gold coins. Scored by composer Alfred Schnittke, the film features fantastical imagery referencing Renaissance and surrealist works of art. The Glass Harmonica was the only animated film to be banned in the Soviet Union.

Free to watch on Youtube.

There Lived Kolyazin, dir. Andrei Khrzhanovsky, 1966, Soviet Union, 9 min

A mindless bureaucrat dutifully follows his boss’s orders on an increasingly absurd journey across the world. This dark comedy was animator Andrei Khrzhanovsky’s graduation film. Eventually, he would rise to prominence in the West with A Room and a Half (2009) about Joseph Brodsky. Khrzhanovsky is still active today, and his critically-acclaimed film The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks premiered at festivals in 2020.

Free to watch on Youtube.

January 8, 2021

 

Carnival Night, dir. Eldar Ryazanov, 1956, Soviet Union, 78 min

In this musical comedy, a committee of young people are planning a New Year’s Eve celebration at their local House of Culture. An old-fashioned bureaucrat suddenly arrives and demands a change of plans. Despite his efforts to make the event more serious, for example by scheduling a lecture, the committee is determined to make it a fun-filled celebration after all.  This classic of 1950s Soviet cinema was one of the first films to come out of the Khrushchev Thaw. Carnival Night was the first feature film by Eldar Ryazanov, who was known for his satires of everyday life in the Soviet Union.

Watch for free on Mosfilm’s Youtube Channel.

*New Year's Eve Edition 
December 31, 2020

 

The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!, dir. Eldar Ryazanov, 1975, 184 minutes

It’s New Year’s Eve in 1970s Moscow, and Zhenya is celebrating his annual tradition of going to the steam baths with friends. He gets too drunk, accidentally boards a plane to Leningrad, and ends up in an apartment building identical to his own back home. The apartment’s tenant tries to throw him out, but over the course of the night, a romance ensues. A key theme of the film is the drab uniformity of Brezhnev-era architecture, with its identical concrete-panel apartment buildings, as introduced in the film’s comic animated prologue. The romantic comedy remains a holiday staple in Russia and is broadcast every year on New Year’s Eve. 

Watch for free on Mosfilm’s Youtube.

December 18, 2020

 

Three Wishes for Cinderella, dir. Václav Vorlícek, 1973, Czechoslovakia & East Germany, 75 min

Popelka (Czech for Cinderella) is known for her rebellious spirit. She is spunkier than her Disney counterpart, and her destiny relies less on magic than her courage and wits. This version of the fairy tale has feminist undertones and is based on nineteenth-century author Božena Němcová’s take on the tale. The film was co-produced by DEFA, the state-owned film studio of the German Democratic Republic, and the Czech Barrandov Studios. It was shown on American TV in the mid-1970s. It has become a family holiday classic in several European countries, where it is broadcast annually on TV, a tradition that has been likened to that of It’s a Wonderful Life in the United States. 

Free to watch on Youtube.

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Cold War Spy Flicks
December 11, 2020

In conjunction with this week's Cold War Spaces on Cold War Spy Adventures, we invite you to enjoy a clandestine double feature: 

Seventeen Moments of Spring, the Soviet counterpart to James Bond, and For Eyes Only – Top Secret, an espionage thriller produced by DEFA, the state-owned film studio of the German Democratic Republic.

 

Seventeen Moments of Spring, dir. Tatyana Lioznova, 1973, Soviet Union, 840 minutes

The Soviet counterpart to James Bond, this twelve-part television series portrays the exploits of a Soviet spy who infiltrates the Nazis under the name Max Otto von Stierlitz during the spring of 1945. The series was part of a trend of media glorifying KGB agents in an effort to improve the KGB’s public image, and director Tatyana Lioznova imbued the story with rich psychological drama. An estimated 50 to 80 million viewers in the Soviet Union watched each episode for its original run in 1973. It remains one of the most popular television series in Russian history.

Watch the first episode for free on Youtube.

For Eyes Only – Top Secret, dir. Janos Veiczi,  East German, 103 min

This double agent thriller was the first East German spy film and a hit with audiences. It was loosely based on real events from 1956, but the allegation of a Western plot to attack the GDR was fabricated, in part to justify having built the Berlin Wall. Some film critics described the film as “the answer to the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962)."

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

December 4, 2020

 

Animal Farm, dir. Joy Batchelor and John Halas, 1954, United States and United Kingdom, 72 mins

George Orwell’s classic story was given a makeover for the big screen by the American secret services in the mid-1950s. Animal Farm delivers brilliant animation, Cold War propaganda dressed as family entertainment, and a revolutionary twist in the tale. Presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces program with Tony Shaw.

The film was a landmark in British animation history, made by the Halas & Batchelor animation studio, the British counterpart to Disney. The CIA supported the film’s financing, marketing, and distribution, although its involvement was secret at the time. The CIA was also influential in the adaptation of the story, which changed Orwell’s cynical ending into an anti-Soviet polemic. 

Free to watch on Tubi.

November 27, 2020

Blood Brothers (Blutsbrüder),1975, East Germany, 75 mins

In this Ostern (East German Western), a U.S. soldier named Harmonika deserts the army after witnessing the brutal slaughter of the Cheyenne during the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. He slowly befriends his one-time enemy Hard Rock, and marries Hard Rock’s sister Fawn. The film stars Serbian actor Gojko Mitić as Hard Rock, and American actor and protest singer Dean Reed as Harmonika. Behind the Iron Curtain both actors were celebrities. Reed was known as the Red Elvis, and Mitić’s popularity was likened to that of John Wayne. 

Osterns criticized American racism, imperialism, colonialism, and genocide. They intended to be historically accurate and counter the stereotypes perpetuated by examples of the Western genre from West Germany, Italy, and the United States. Unlike the age-old Hollywood portrayal of the white savior, the Native Americans save the white man in Blood Brothers. Yet these films still mythologized Native Americans and appropriated their struggles for ideological purposes as part of the Cold War antagonism between East and West. 

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card

 

November 20, 2020

 

 

We invite you to explore the work of Mariam Ghani, this week's Art Past Present guest. Ghani works across multiple disciplines – video, installation, photography, text, sound, and performance – but all of her projects share the same research-based approach, and all operate through a variable mix of documentary, narrative, and database forms. Her practice is based on research into places, spaces, and moments where social, political, and cultural structures take on visible and tangible forms.

You may read more about Ghani's film and video work, and watch shorts and excerpts by exploring her website

November 13, 2020

 

The Legend of Paul and Paula, dir. Heiner Carow, 1973, GDR, 106 min

The most popular film ever made by DEFA, the state-owned film studio of the German Democratic Republic, Heiner Carow’s film explores themes of longing, dreams, and the pursuit of individual freedom.

Paul (Glatzeder) and Paula (Domröse) grew up in the same East Berlin neighborhood, but know each other only in passing. A minor government official whose career is on the up-swing, Paul is stuck in his failing marriage. Paula is a single mother and shop clerk torn between marrying a suitor whom she does not love (but who would provide for her family) and following her heart and seeking true love.

When a chance meeting brings Paul and Paula together, the two fall for each other. For Paula, their passionate love affair is the beginning of a future she has dreamed of. Paul, however, is indecisive and afraid of damaging his social standing with a scandal. As their affair becomes a small neighborhood legend, social pressures threaten to tear the lovers apart. Realizing he may have found the love of his life, and fearing he may lose her forever, Paul is willing to fight for Paula’s love.

Writer Ulrich Plenzdorf and director Heiner Carow winningly portray everyday life in East Berlin in a passionate and off-beat star-crossed love story. Featuring the music of the East German cult rock band, The Pudhys, the film was an immediate hit with young audiences in both East and West Germany, becoming a cult classic.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Soviet Horror Flicks
October 30, 2020

 

In celebration of Halloween, the Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende series is offering two weeks of Cold War era frights. This week we invite you to watch two horror films from the Soviet Union: The Savage Hunt of King Stakh and Viy. The indulgence of the horror genre was not in line with Soviet ideology, so only a handful of horror films came out of the USSR.

The Savage Hunt of King Stakh, dir. Valeri Rubinchik, 1980,Soviet Union (Belarus), 134 mins

In this atmospheric gothic horror film, a young folklorist travels to the remote Belarusian countryside, where he encounters its eccentric inhabitants. At an isolated mansion, he finds a superstitious heiress and learns about the legendary King Stakh and his ghostly retinue who seek revenge on her family line. 

Watch for free on Vimeo.

 Viy, dir. Konstantin Ershov and Georgiy Kropachyov, 1967, Soviet Union, 77 mins

Based on Nikolai Gogol’s horror novella, Viy is often claimed as the first and only Soviet horror film. It follows a seminary student who is ordered to preside over the wake of a witch in a remote village, spending three nights alone in a church with her corpse. Viy is a dark fairy tale with uniquely bizarre visuals, including a witch flying around on a coffin, and many-eyed and many-tentacled monsters. 

Watch for free with ads on Tubi.

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Spooky Selections from the Eastern Bloc

Friday, October 23, 2020

In celebration of Halloween, the Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende series is offering two weeks of triple-feature frights. This week we invite you to watch Cold War-era films from Czechoslovakia: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Saxana: The Girl on the Broomstick, and The Cremator.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, dir. Jaromil Jireš, 1970, Czechoslovakia, 76 mins

A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft, and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jireš is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

Available to watch on Criterion Channel.


Saxana: The Girl on the Broomstick (DÍVKA NA KOŠTĚTI), dir. Václav Vorlícek, 1972, Czechoslovakia, 75 mins

This kid-friendly fantasy comedy tells the story of a teenage witch (played by Petra Černocká) who faces 300 years of detention for failing her shapeshifting class. With the help of the school janitor and a retired vampire, Saxana turns into an owl and visits the human world, where she befriends a zookeeper’s son, goes to human school, and ends up turning the faculty into rabbits. 

Watch for free on Youtube.

 The Cremator, dir. Juraj Herz, 1969, Czechoslovakia, 140 mins

Czechoslovak New Wave iconoclast Juraj Herz’s terrifying, darkly comic vision of the horrors of totalitarian ideologies stars a supremely chilling Rudolf Hrušínský as the pathologically morbid Karel Kopfrkingl, a crematorium manager in 1930s Prague who believes fervently that death offers the only true relief from human suffering. When he is recruited by the Nazis, Kopfrkingl’s increasingly deranged worldview drives him to formulate his own shocking final solution. Blending the blackest of gallows humor with disorienting expressionistic flourishes—queasy point-of-view shots, distorting lenses, jarring quick cuts—the controversial, long-banned masterpiece The Cremator is one of cinema’s most trenchant and disturbing portraits of the banality of evil.

Available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

October 16, 2020

 

This week's film selections are three works by Art Past Present guest Ira Eduardovna: That. There. Then. is a six-channel video installation that utilizes actors participating in a staged television show that is based on an iconic Soviet television quiz show called What? Where? When?On foreign made soles is a seven-channel video installation filmed in the artist's hometown of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where she traveled for the first time since emigrating in 1990.  A desperate search for physical confirmation of a personal fleeting memory within the context of global history is at the center of To Prague with Love, a single-channel video installation.

All three films are available to watch free courtesy of the artist. 

Saturday, October 9, 2020

 

State of Siege, dir Costa-Gavras, 1972, France, 121 min

Director Costa-Gavras puts the involvement of the United States in Latin American politics under the microscope in this arresting thriller. An urban guerrilla group, outraged at the counterinsurgency and torture training for police clandestinely organized by the CIA in their country (unnamed in the film), abducts a U.S. official (Yves Montand) to bargain for the release of political prisoners; soon the kidnapping becomes a media sensation, leading to violence. Cowritten by Franco Solinas, the electrifying State of Siege piercingly critiques the American government for supporting foreign dictatorships, while also asking difficult questions about the efficacy of radical violent acts to oppose such regimes.

This week’s bonus film selection connects to our Cold War Spaces program with guest Alex Vitale, on Profiling Space: Policing During and After the Cold War.

Watch for free on Criterion Channel with a subscription, or rent on other streaming platforms.

October 9, 2020

 

This Ain’t California, dir. Marten Perseil, 2013, Germany, 95 min

This Ain’t California is a hybrid documentary about skateboarding in 1980s East Germany. The film melds fact and fiction—it stages archival footage alongside reconstructed “footage,” and memorializes a main character who may or may not have ever existed. Still, with its punk soundtrack and energetic storytelling about the unknown history of underground GDR skate culture, the film captures the universal spirit of youthful rebellion. 

Watch for free on Amazon Prime.

October 2, 2020

 

Red Wave, 1986, dir. Joanna Stingray, Soviet Union, 32 mins

Red Wave is a selection of documentary footage shot by Cold War Spaces guest Joanna Stingray. Screened during her 1988 Red Wave exhibit in Los Angeles, it includes footage from the "New Artists" underground studio in Leningrad, and features interviews with Soviet artists, including Timur Novikov, Afrika Bugaev, and Viktor Tsoi (of the band Kino).

The film features four music videos for the United States-released double album, “Red Wave: 4 Underground Bands from the USSR” including the song "Ashes" by Aquarium, “Saw a Night” by Kino, “Experimentor” by Alisa, and “Metamorphosis” by Strange Games. Stingray wanted to “open Americans eyes to the fact that there were rock n' rollers in Russia that looked like cool rockers anywhere.” It was extremely difficult to screen the film in the Soviet Union in 1985, as “it was almost unheard of to have a video camera and we were always nervous filming on the street that we would get arrested” (Stingray). The music videos would go on to premiere on MTV in the United States.


September 25, 2020 

This week's selection is two documentaries made for the Hidden Persuaders research project at Birkbeck College, University of London. Both explore the idea of brainwashing during the Korean War. This week's Cold War Spaces guest, Daniel Pick, is a Senior Investigator in the project.

Every Man Has His Breaking Point: Reagan, Brainwashing, and the Movies, dir. Phil Tinline, 2017, United Kingdom, 39 min

Every Man Has His Breaking Point: Reagan, Brainwashing, and the Movies tells the story of Hollywood’s attempt to capture the realities of North Korean indoctrination techniques in the almost-forgotten movie Prisoner of War (1954), featuring future President Ronald Reagan. The midcentury movie’s fate illuminates the evolving meaning of “brainwashing” in Cold War America, as well as the power of film to shape our collective memory.

David Hawkins: A Battle of the Mind, dir. Nasheed Faruqi, 2017, United Kingdom, 24 min

The story of David Hawkins, the youngest of 21 Americans who ‘chose China’ at the end of the Korean conflict.

Combining archival footage with new oral history interviews, the film brings to life Hawkins’ remarkable experiences during this crucial period in the history of ‘mind control.’ It considers the ambiguities of autobiography, using the various, intertwined versions of Hawkins’s story to shed light both on Cold War politics and the changing ways in which we interpret and pathologize personal trauma.

Watch for free on the Hidden Persuaders website

September 18, 2020

Professions in Focus (Berufe Im Bild), 1976–1990, East Germany

In celebration of Textile Month, we are screening two episodes of Professions in Focus from the Wende's film collection. In the mid-1950s, the GDR prioritized conservative and functional design over the kind of fashionable textiles that were popular in the West. These two East German educational films from the Wende collection outline specializations within the fields of textile technology and clothing work. Professions in Focus does not glamorize the work, although some of the footage of the machinery can be mesmerizing. It describes potential challenges within the field using a touch of humor. The films also provide evidence for how gendered textile work was; as the narration states, the profession is especially suitable for girls. “They need less physical strength, but instead an almost artistic dexterity. So if you have two left hands, you should not pursue this profession.” As a clothing worker, you might only find male colleagues doing the heavy labor of the ironing department.

 

September 11, 2020

 

Soviet Hippies, dir. Terje Toomistu, 2019, Estonia, 75 min

 
The hippie movement that captivated hundreds of thousands of young people in the West had a profound impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain, too. Within the Soviet system, a colorful crowd of artists, musicians, freaks, vagabonds, and other long-haired drop outs created their own system, which connected those who believed in peace, love, and freedom. More than forty years later, a group of eccentric hippies from Estonia take a road trip to Moscow, the hippies still gather annually on the first of June to commemorate the tragic events of 1971, when thousands of the Soviet hippies were arrested by the KGB.


This week's Cold War Spaces guest, Juliane Fürst, was an associate producer and research advisor for the film.

Watch the film for free on demand via Vimeo with the password Wendehippies.

September 4, 2020

 

Disco Dancer, dir. Babbar Subhash, 1982, India, 135 min

Disco Dancer tells the rags to riches story of Jimmy (Mithun Chakraborty), a street performer who becomes India’s disco king. The Bollywood film was wildly popular in the Soviet Union and had the highest turnout of viewers for any film when it was released there in 1984. It made Mithun Chakraborty a star in the Soviet Union, and to this day he still has an enduring fan base in Russia known as “Mithunists.” 

Although Bollywood films may seem at odds with Soviet ideology for their escapism and spectacle, the Soviet Union imported Indian popular cinema as a non-Western alternative to Hollywood, the other biggest film industry. Disco Dancer is a highly entertaining example of transnational cultural exchange during the Cold War. This selection connects to our Song-A-Day: Soviet Disco playlist. 

Available to watch via Amazon Prime Video.


Beat Street, dir. Stan Lathan, 1984, United States, 105 min

Beat Street introduced audiences across the world to hip hop culture, including in East Germany, where it premiered in 1985.  According to Leonard Schmieding, our guest for this week’s Cold War Spaces, the film made it onto East German screens for two reasons. The cultural authorities saw it as a “problem film” that would cast America as a bad place, and educate youth about the problems of the capitalist and racist USA. The film would also be a blockbuster:  it sold three million tickets and ran in theaters for several years. But to East German youth, the film's appeal was due to its style rather than any political message. Previously, they were aware of hip hop via snippets from West German TV and radio broadcasts, but with Beat Street, they could learn from the movie’s vivid depiction of the four elements of hip hop: DJing, MCing/rapping, b-boying/break dancing, and graffiti. 

Watch for free on Tubi.

For a further discussion of Beat Street and hip hop culture in East Germany, see Leonard Schmieding’s 2015 lecture and this week's Cold War Spaces talk here


August 28, 2020

 

Vladimir Paperny, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures at UCLA and author of Architecture in the Age of Stalin: Culture Two, will present a talk comparing two Cold War films: The Iron Curtain (1948, United States) versus Proshchai, Amerika! (Goodbye, America!) (1951, Soviet Union). This presentation is a continuation of his project with late film critic and screenwriter Maya Turovskaya, called "Hollywood in Moscow: American and Soviet Film of the 1930s-1940s," and his second virtual film discussion at the Wende.

RSVP Here

August 21, 2020

 

 

Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Pearl, dir. by Peter Kirby, 2012, United States 

In 2012, acclaimed artist and author Enrique Martínez Celaya transformed 12,000 square feet of gallery spaces at SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, into an immersive environment that included painting, sculpture, video, photography, waterwork, sound, writing, and the artist’s first musical arrangement. In The Pearl, Martínez Celaya takes the notion of home as both a point of departure and a destination to craft a visual poem of strong emotional, philosophical, and psychological resonance. Enrique Martínez Celaya: The Pearl follows the artist during the making and installation of his immersive project, in his Miami studio, and at SITE Santa Fe.

Enrique Martínez Celaya was the guest on this week's Art Past Present. "The Pearl" will be available to stream via the Wende Museum through August 26, 2020.


August 14, 2020

 

Hipsters (Stilyagi), dir. Valery Todorovsky, 2008, Russia, 133 min

While conducting a raid on an underground jazz club, Mels, a Komsomol youth league member, becomes enamored with Polly, a member of a gang of stilyagi (style hunters). Mels begins hanging out on “Broadway” (Gorky Street), starts to dress like the stilyagi, and procures a saxophone, eventually abandoning the Komsomol.

The film features musical numbers of reimagined Soviet rock hits, along with vibrant production design and costumes. It offers a fun and colorful insight into Moscow life in the 1950s and the appeal of Western culture, particularly jazz, among the hip youth subculture. This week’s selection pairs with Wednesday’s Cold War Spaces program, on U.S.-Soviet cultural exchange in the mid-1950s.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card

August 7, 2020

Krtek, “The Mole and the City,” created by Zdeněk Miler, 1982, Czechoslovakia, 28 minutes

Krtek—the Czech cartoon about a curious and warmhearted mole—gained enormous popularity in Eastern Europe, where the character is still an enduring cultural figure. With the show’s lack of dialogue, it crossed borders to Western Europe and various countries across the world. This 1982 episode is an allegory of environmental catastrophe in which bulldozers raze the little mole’s forest home, and he and his friends must find their way through the city. 

This week's selection is presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces program Spaces of Television: Between Propaganda and Consumerism.

Watch for free on Youtube.

July 31, 2020

War of the Worlds, dir. Byron Haskin, 1953, United States, 85 min

War of the Worlds is a classic alien invasion film teeming with Cold War paranoia and anxiety that brings the chaos of H.G. Wells’s novel to 1950s California. The space-age streamlined UFOs and spectacular images of destruction, along with Hungarian-born producer George Pal’s pioneering special effects, won the film an Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1954.

As the aliens move towards Los Angeles, the inhabitants evacuate and the city descends into ruins. Urban cultural historian Eric Avila, this week’s Cold War Spaces guest, links the film to not only Red Scare fears but white flight. In his book Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (2004), he writes that the film reveals “a perception that Los Angeles was under attack by alien invaders and that suburban domesticity offered a safe alternative to the chaos that had descended upon the postwar American metropolis. In the changing racial geography of the postwar, postindustrial city, the urban science fiction film provided a cultural arena where suburban America could measure its whiteness against the image of the alien Other.”   

Watch for free (with ads) on Crackle. Also available for purchase on other streaming services.  

July 24, 2020

Disgraced Monuments, dir. Laura Mulvey and Mark Lewis, United Sates, 1991-93

Disgraced Monuments was filmed in Moscow and Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1991 and 1992 and edited in the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Studio in the fall of 1993. In the nearly 100 years of Russian and Soviet history that filmmakers Laura Mulvey and Mark Lewis cover in the video, successive waves of iconoclasm have left a trove of relics—dismantled and often partially destroyed monuments—that memorialize the nation’s various political regimes. Now mostly hidden away in museums, warehouses, and studios, these objects occupy a curious, almost undefinable place in post-Soviet Russian culture. Are they painful reminders of oppression? Or an important part of cultural heritage? Can they be both?

This week's selection is presented in conjunction with the Cold War Spaces program Contested Space: Communist and Confederate Monuments

Disgraced Monuments is streaming for free online through August 14, 2020, courtesy of the Wexner Center for the Arts, click here to watch. The text excerpt was written by Jennifer Lange, Curator, Film/Video Studio Program at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

July 17, 2020

Ida, dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland, 2014

From the director of the 2018 film Cold War, Ida is a moving and intimate drama about a young novitiate nun in 1960's Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows, makes a shocking discovery about her past.

18-year old Anna, a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. Naive, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda, a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house, and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism. The winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 2015 as well as a BAFTA award for Best Film Not in the English Language; Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, and the Cesar Awards.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.  Also available to watch with a subscription or rent on other streaming services.

July 10, 2020

Mystery of the Third Planet, dir. Roman Kachanov, Soviet Union, 1981

During summer vacation in July 2181, Alice and her professor father set out on an intergalactic journey to find rare species of animals for the Moscow Zoo. This kid-friendly animated pick was produced by Soyuzmultfim studio and was directed by Roman Kachanov, best known for directing the Cheburashka series of stop motion cartoons. This week’s selection connects with the Song-A-Day: Soviet Electronic Music playlist, which includes a song from the soundtrack.

The soundtrack was composed by Alexander Zatsepin, born in Siberia in 1924. The music needed to be otherworldly, of course, and Zatsepin had dabbled with radio technology and electronic sound since his youth. By his own admission, living in Novosibirsk meant that contemporary musical instruments were impossible to attain. Everything was DIY. Even when he got his hands on a Minimoog, he used it as inspiration to build his own version of a mellotron. The resulting combination of traditional stringed instruments and electronic experimentation in this feature reflects two sides of Russian music in the late 1970s and early 1980s: public prestige and private tinkering. Grand limitations and tiny freedoms, a duality that suits the film’s overall plot. Although the travelers are on an official mission to space, the journey’s true significance is revealed in all the private, magical discoveries en route.

Watch the film here with English subtitles. The dubbed and re-edited official 1995 US release (does not include the original soundtrack) can be found here.

July 3, 2020

Medea, dir. Ben Caldwell, 1973, United States, 6:49 min.

Ben Caldwell’s Medea, a collage piece made on an animation stand and edited entirely in the camera, combines live-action and rapidly edited still images of Africans and African Americans which function like flashes of history that the unborn child will inherit. Caldwell invokes Amiri Baraka’s poem “Part of the Doctrine” in this experimental meditation on art history, Black imagery, identity, and heritage.

The experimental short film is an early student work by Ben Caldwell, who will be discussed during the Cold War Spaces program on Community Space: Multimedia Art and African American Community Formation in LA. The young L.A. Rebellion filmmaker titled his film Medea, after the tragic mythological figure that also inspired the contemporaneous work of the Eastern European women artists featured in our past exhibition The Medea Insurrection.

Watch the film for free on Youtube, courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

June 26, 2020

 

Un Traductor, dir. Rodrigo Barriuso and Sebastián Barriuso, 2018, Canada/Cuba, 107 min. 

In the wake of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Malin (Rodrigo Santoro), a professor of Russian literature at the University of Havana, is assigned to act as a translator on behalf of Ukrainian children sent to Cuba for medical treatment. Though initially frustrated and depressed by his new role, he starts to connect with the young patients — at the expense of his own suffering family.

Tied to the broader story of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the resulting economic crisis in Cuba, Rodrigo and Sebastián Barriuso’s directorial debut follows a man torn between his sense of duty amid a global upheaval and his commitment to his wife (an art curator) and young child. The film is based on the true story of the Barriuso brothers’ father, and the little-known history of how over twenty thousand Chernobyl victims were eventually treated in Cuba.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card

June 19, 2020

 

Photo credit: DEFA-Stiftung/Wolfgang Fritsche. All rights reserved.

This week we are offering our second guest selection, from Mariana Ivanova, the academic director of the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst.

Coming Out opens with sirens and right away confronts us with a suicide attempt and the people’s need to face their desires. Philipp is a high-school teacher, loved by his students and respected by his colleagues; yet he lives in denial of his homosexuality. Teetering on the brink of domestic bliss, he gets engaged to his colleague Tanya. Philipp’s “solution,” however, is soon disturbed, when he unexpectedly meets an old love interest from high school. Torn by his feelings, Philipp randomly comes across a vivacious gay bar, where he meets 19-year-old Matthias…

The only gay movie produced in the GDR, Coming Out premiered the night the Berlin Wall opened on November 9, 1989. Commemorating the film’s 30 th anniversary, the DEFA Film Library will soon release a new edition, including interviews with lead actors Matthias Freihof, Dirk Kummer, and Dagmar Manzel. Coming Out was filmed on location at gay hangouts in East Berlin, including gay bars in Prenzlauer Berg and the Friedrichshain Volkspark. A little gem is a scene with the famous East German trans activist Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.


June 12, 2020

Da 5 Bloods, dir. Spike Lee, 2020, United States, 154 min

This week’s Friday Night Film is Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, premiering on Netflix. It follows a group of four Black veterans who reunite in Vietnam to search for their fallen squad leader’s remains, along with buried treasure. The film explores the enduring memories of the Vietnam War, one of the Cold War era's quintessential conflicts. The story unfolds in present-day but is also told in flashbacks (in which the aging actors play their younger selves).

Watch on Netflix, with a subscription.

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Paul Robeson Spotlight

June 5, 2020

This week's Virtual Friday Night Film selections are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and spotlight Paul Robeson, a prominent Civil Rights activist and American actor with strong connections to the Cold War-period. In his youth, Robeson was an All-American football player, a graduate from Rutgers University and Columbia Law School. A renowned bass-baritone concert artist and film actor, Robeson became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism. Robeson advocated for civil rights in the United States and abroad, and was sympathetic to the revolutionary ideals and conceived lack of racial prejudice in the Soviet Union. In part due to his association with international communist circles, and in part due to his prominent cultural and political role, the US government targeted Robeson in a McCarthyist attempt to silence him. He ultimately sacrificed his career for his beliefs and fight against injustice. 

Body and Soul

Body and Soul, dir. Oscar Michaeux, 1925, United States, 102 min. 

Paul Robeson's silent film screen debut, Body and Soul tells the story of a convict masquerading as a preacher in small-town Georgia, directed by pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

Watch on Kanopy or Criterion Collection. The Criterion Collection is currently streaming this film free, no subscription required. Kanopy films are free to watch with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, dir. Saul J. Turell, 1979, United States, 29 min.

Saul J. Turell's Academy Award-winning documentary short Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist, narrated by Sidney Poitier, traces his career through his activism and his socially charged performances of his signature song, "Ol' Man River."

Watch on Criterion Channel

Songs of Freedom - Musician and Activist Paul Robeson

Songs of Freedom - Musician and Activist Paul Robeson, 2008 DVD release, United States, 52 min.

Songs Of Freedom exposes the attempts of the FBI and other secret services in America to stop Robeson's rising popularity and their ongoing efforts to discredit his activism. The film reveals that Robeson's life was in danger as long as he continued along the path of international socialism.

Watch on Kanopy. Kanopy films are free to watch with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

May 29, 2020

As part of Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende, Vladimir Paperny, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures at UCLA and author of Architecture in the Age of Stalin: Culture Two, will present a talk comparing two early Cold War films: Encounter at the Elbe (1949, Soviet Union) versus Berlin Express (1948, United States). This presentation is a continuation of his project with late film critic and screenwriter Maya Turovskaya, called "Hollywood in Moscow: American and Soviet Film of the 1930s-1940s."

Click Here to Watch


May 22, 2020

 

Ashes and Diamonds, dir. Andrzej Wajda, 1958, Poland, 104 min.

On the last day of World War II, Home Army resistance fighter Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski) is under orders to kill a local communist official. Over the course of one night, he becomes more ambivalent towards his duty. Cybulski imbued the historical film with a modern sensibility—he refused to wear period costume, and instead showed up to set wearing his own jeans and iconic dark glasses. With its stylized black & white imagery, the film captures the disarray of a country on the brink of a new reality after the war. Ashes and Diamonds is regarded as one of the greatest Polish films of all time, and the masterpiece of director Andrzej Wajda.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

May 15, 2020

 

Jana and Jan, dir. Helmut Dziuba, 1991, Germany, 84 min, produced by DEFA Studio.

This week we are offering our first guest selection, from Mariana Ivanova, the academic director of the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst. 

Jan, almost 16, tried to escape to the West but ended up landing in Torgau, a secret East German penitentiary. Six months later, he was transferred to a juvenile detention center where he catches the eye of Jana, 17, who bets her girlfriends that she will “make him a man.” A survivor of her stepfather’s abuse, Jana doesn’t believe in love. This coming-of-age tale tackles not only the story of Jana and Jan, who fall for each other in the turbulent year the Berlin Wall opens; along with the couple’s tenderness and fierce argument when Jana decides to have an abortion, we witness the rough culture of the detention center and a girl’s struggle with same-sex desire and suicidal thoughts. Director and scriptwriter Helmut Dziuba was among the few East German filmmakers to screen the taboo topics of teenage pregnancy, child sexual abuse, abortion, and young people in detention centers. In the end, the still pregnant Jana and Jan make it into united Germany, but will that really help them? Jana and Jan was part of WENDE FLICKS: Last Films from East Germany that was organized by the DEFA Film Library and the Wende Museum and premiered at LACMA in 2009.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.


May 8, 2020

 

Viktoria, dir. Maya Vitkova, 2014, Bulgaria and Romania, 155 min.

Viktoria (2014) is director Maya Vitkova’s debut film about three generations of women in communist Bulgaria, and how their dreams and ideals alternately connect them to and alienate them from one another as the regime comes to an end around them. In 1979, Viktoria is born without an umbilical cord to her reluctant mother Boryana (and exultant grandmother Dima) and is consequently proclaimed "baby of the decade," despite the fact that Boryana desires above all to flee to the West. Vitkova captures what unfolds through a beautifully shot narrative with a rich color palette, recurring symbols, and very little dialogue, all of which combine to successfully compel the viewer to ponder the implications of the three women's choices.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: In the Dust of the Stars (Im Staub der Sterne)
April 30, 2020

In the Dust of Stars, dir. Gottfried Kolditz, 1976, East Germany, 95 min., produced by DEFA Studio.

This 1976 science fiction film follows Commander Akala of the Cynro spaceship and her crew after they crash-land on the mysterious planet TEM 4 while attempting to respond to a distress call. The crew disembarks to investigate, only to find that TEM 4's leader, Ronk, claims the distress call was a mistake. Suspicions mount when the crew uncovers the planet's hidden reality.

This stylized East German and Romanian co-production features bold art direction that juxtaposes desolate pseudo-moonscapes with vivid costuming.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

April 24, 2020

12:08 East of Bucharest, dir. Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006, Romania, 89 min.

A television talk show host, an alcoholic high school teacher, and an old man assemble in a drab Romanian town for a Christmastime TV special about the revolution that happened 16 years before. “Was there, or was there not a revolution in our town?” the host asks. He tries to get the truth about whether the townspeople began protesting before or after 12:08 p.m. on December 22, 1989, the exact moment that leader Nicolae Ceaușescu was ousted amid violent upheaval in Bucharest. This critically acclaimed deadpan comedy takes a satirical look at how we remember turning points in history, and how we forget them. Director Corneliu Porumboiu (who was playing ping pong at 12:08) said his film works against the concept that a revolution changes everything overnight.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.


April 17, 2020

Leto, dir. Kirill Serebrennikov, 2018, Russia, 126 min.

Leto (2018) is a black & white rock musical about a summer in the 1980s Leningrad music scene. It centers around Viktor, Mike, and Natalia—Viktor is Viktor Tsoi of the real-life band Kino, and Mike is Mikhail Naumenko of Zoopark. The soundtrack combines their music with the British and American songs they would have listened to illicitly, from the likes of the Talking Heads, Iggy Pop, and T. Rex. More mood piece than a biopic, the movie blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, with musical interludes, animations, and bursts of color. Theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov completed the film while under house arrest in Moscow, for what many say were politically motivated charges due to his provocative work. Kino and Zoopark are featured on the Wende’s Soviet Punk Playlist.


Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Whisper & SHOUT: a Rock Report
April 10, 2020

Whisper & SHOUT, dir. Dieter Schumann, 1988, East Germany, 115 min., produced by DEFA Studio.  

Whisper & SHOUT: a Rock Report (1988) offers a glimpse into the East German music scene of the late 1980s, big hair and all. This documentary takes the viewer onboard tour vans and into poster-covered teenage bedrooms, weaving together concert footage and interviews with musicians and their fans. It profiles six bands, ranging from the state-supported synth-pop group Silly to the underground punk band Feeling B (members of which went on to found Rammstein). The film was a box office hit and made it past censors, but still hints at the struggles bands faced in order to make music in East Germany. Tina Bara, featured in the Wende's recent exhibition, The Medea Insurrection, was a researcher and photographer for the film.

Watch on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.

 

Virtual Friday Night Films at the Wende: Moscow-Cassiopeia
April 3, 2020

Moscow-Cassiopeia, dir. Richard Viktorov, Soviet Union, 1974, 85 min; with Teens in the Universe, 1975, 85 min.

Science fiction gained popularity in the USSR during Nikita Khrushchev's cultural thaw, but the genre still had to conform to the known laws of science. It was not until the 1970s that time travel appeared in Soviet film, and Richard Viktorov’s sci-fi comedy Moscow-Cassiopeia (1973) was one of the first. Featuring futuristic sets and gadgets, a mischievous stowaway, and even a version of remote learning, the film enforces values such as inventiveness, teamwork, and a positive depiction of science and education as teens board a spaceship for a lifelong mission to the constellation Cassiopeia. In the sequel, Teens in the Universe (1974), the crew reaches a planet taken over by robots that promise an ideal society of “happiness” but deprive its inhabitants of free will—a not so subtle reflection on the Soviet Union’s Stalinist past. 

Both films are available on Kanopy, free with a library card. Get immediate access to a LAPL e-card or LA County Library Digital Card.