| THE DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART
USA/Russia/ Uzbekistan, 2010, 80 min
Directed by Chavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope
Written by Chavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope
Produced by Chavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope
Cinematography by Gennadi Balitski, Alexander Dolgin
Starring Edward Asner, Sally Field, Ben Kingsley
How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags.
Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.
Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as "one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art" and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions, a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.
Dennis Harvey VARIETY
The fascinating story of the collection and creation of Uzbekistan's Nukus Museum is told in Tchavdar Georgiev and Amanda Pope's "The Desert of Forbidden Art." A remarkable treasure trove little-known to most Westerners -- or even fellow citizens of former U.S.S.R. territories - the museum is institution showcases decades of avant-garde art suppressed over decades of cultural censoriousness. Absorbing docu is a natural for artscasters, with an outside shot at specialized theatrical exposure. After flourishing in the 1920s, avant-gardism in all media became increasingly frowned upon by bureaucratic watchdogs who much preferred "Soviet realist" style -- patriotic, propagandistic, often kitschily idealizing life under communist rule -- to anything more adventuresome. Artists who chose more individual paths, which could also include religious or homosexual expressions, were often sent to mental hospitals, prison camps or the firing squad during Stalinist purges. Those who were luckier either bent their publicly shown work to official models or simply hid all efforts from view.
Official site: http://www.desertofforbiddenart.com/
Won 2010 Cine Golden Eagle Award
2010 Palm Beach International Film Festival, USA
Won Best Documentary Award
2010 Prescott Film Festival, USA
Won Best Documentary Award
Cinema House - 07.11 - 15:30; Lumiere - 11.11 - 19:00