OVID.tv – Now Streaming: 13 New Films on Russia & the USSR

OVID is kicking off March with 13 new documentaries on Russia and the former USSR!

This includes the film DOUBLE LIFE, A SHORT HISTORY OF SEX IN THE USSR, which revisits 70 years of communist power in the Eastern Bloc through the prism of sexuality. Also included in this wave of releases is ART AND OLIGARCHS, a work on newly-minted Russian art collectors and their not entirely wholesome reasons for investing in art.

These works join 10 other films on Russia/USSR already on OVID making this the largest collection of its type available anywhere online.

Check out these films as well as their pick from the OVID archives: DARK DAYS, filmmaker Marc Singer’s legendary work on a community of homeless people living in NYC’s underground tunnels.

The Scientist, The Imposter and Stalin
Directed by Gulya Mirzoeva; Icarus Films, Documentary

Nikolai Vavilov was a brilliant biologist, agronomist, and geneticist whose life and career were driven by one passion: feeding the world. More specifically, feeding the Soviet Union, whose early decades were repeatedly marked by famines that killed millions.

Trofim Lysenko, Vavilov’s slightly younger contemporary, was also a biologist and agronomist. He made a name for himself by claiming to have developed a technique to boost wheat production, among other innovations. His innovations were more hype than science, and some led to disastrous results.

Afghanistan 1979: The Year that Changed the World
Directed by Gulya Mirzoeva; Icarus Films, Documentary

The Soviet troops’ intervention in Afghanistan was a pivotal event in the history of the 20th century. It launched Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in 1979. This was the war that changed the world. Western countries refer to it as ‘The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan’. For the Russians it was an operation with a ‘limited contingent’ of armed forces. Despite its ‘limits’, the war lasted ten years and played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. It would be the final conflict of the Cold War, and the first in a long war that is far from over.

How Putin Came to Power
Directed by Tania Rakhmanova; Icarus Films, Documentary

In August 1999, Vladimir V. Putin, head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the KGB, was appointed Prime Minister. On December 31st of that year, Boris Yeltsin announced that Putin would succeed him as President of the Russian Federation. HOW PUTIN CAME TO POWER traces the stunningly rapid ascension of this political unknown to leadership of the Kremlin.

The Hermitage Dwellers
Directed by Aliona van der Horst; Icarus Films, Documentary

THE HERMITAGE DWELLERS is as much about the people who work in Russia’s renowned museum as it is about the glorious art works housed in this St. Petersburg institution. We meet with several ‘Hermitage-niks’-including Olga Bogdanova, the head of museum maintenance, icon curator Alexandra Kostsova, museum attendant Valentina Barbashova, and art handler Vadim Kuptsov, among others-each of whom explains their own very personal reasons for considering the palace of Catherine the Great their ‘home.’

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here
Directed by Amei Wallach; First Run Features, Documentary

Through the eyes of artists who experienced Stalin’s tyranny, through the rich underground art scene that arose during the Soviet Union’s later stagnation, Enter Here explores the ways in which art can outwit oppression, illuminate what comes next, and transcend time – offering a beacon of light for repressed societies today.

Art and Oligarchs
Directed by Tania Rakhmanova; Icarus Films, Documentary

A popular trend among Russian oligarchs is to purchase works of art. Why? It’s a way to get into the Kremlin’s good graces, to gild their image…and to cover up the origin of their fortunes, often acquired in the shadow of post-Soviet power.

Following a group of newly-minted collectors as they attempt to follow in the steps of well-known collectors of the early 20th-century, Tania Rakhmanov’s powerful documentary ART AND OLIGARCHS depicts a Russia where art, easy money, and an authoritarian state co-exist.

Revolution: New Art for a New World
Directed by Margy Kinmonth; Film Movement, Documentary

A bold and exciting feature documentary that encapsulates a momentous period in the history of Russia and the Russian Avant-Garde. Drawing on the collections of major Russian institutions, contributions from contemporary artists, curators and performers and personal testimony from the descendants of those involved, the film brings the artists of the Russian Avant-Garde to life.

It tells the stories of artists like Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich–pioneers who flourished in response to the challenge of building a new art for a new world, only to be broken by implacable authority after 15 short years and silenced by Stalin’s Socialist Realism. Yet these remarkable artworks survived and the Russian Avant-Garde continues to exert an influence over contemporary art movements.

Liberation: The User’s Guide
Directed by Alexander Kuznetsov; Icarus Films, Documentary

In Sibera, Russia, 18-year-old girls Julia, Ina, Olga and Katia are transferred directly from orphanages to neuropsychiatric institutions and are deprived of their rights as citizens: no freedom, no work, and no family. On the basis of a recent law, the director of the hospital tries to help them escape this internment. Filmmaker Alexander Kuznetsov follows their long and difficult journey as they attempt to reconquer these rights in the face of fearsome Russian institutional bureaucracy. LIBERATION: THE USER’S GUIDE is their path to freedom and a leap into the unknown.

Siberian Love
Directed by Olga Delane; Women Make Movies, Documentary

In rural Siberia, romantic expectations are traditional and practical. The man is the head of the household. The woman takes care of the housekeeping and the children. But filmmaker Olga Delane doesn’t agree. While she was born in this small Siberian village, as a teenager she migrated to Berlin with her family, and 20 years of living in Germany has changed her expectations. SIBERIAN LOVE follows Delane home to her community of birth, where she interviews family and neighbors about their lives and relationships.

Sleeping Souls
Directed by Alexander Abaturov; Icarus Films, Documentary

Atchinsk is a Siberian town 2500 miles away from Moscow where Soviet dissidents and, before them, the Tsar’s opponents were deported. It’s pre-election season, and the small, sleepy town is abuzz with the voices of regime supporters and paid activists working for Putin. Iouri, a political hireling working for Putin’s party explains the inner mechanics of the system over glass of vodka. But it’s a cold winter and Atchinsk residents are not keen on talking politics, especially about the present campaign.

Girl Model
Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin; First Run Features, Documentary

Girl Model explores how young girls are discovered in obscure corners of the globe and initiated into the high stakes modeling industry. This eye-opening film follows two protagonists: Ashley Arbaugh, a former model and now scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces; and one of her discoveries, Nadya Vall, a 13-year-old plucked from her rustic home in Russia and dropped into the center of bustling Tokyo with promises of a profitable career.

The Road Movie
Directed by Dmitrii Kalashnikov; Oscilloscope Pictures, Documentary

A mosaic of asphalt adventures, landscape photography, and some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen, Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s THE ROAD MOVIE is a stunning compilation of video footage shot exclusively via the deluge of dashboard cameras that populate Russian roads.

The epitome of a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it documentary, THE ROAD MOVIE captures a wide range of spectacles through the windshield—including a comet crashing down to Earth, an epic forest fire, and no shortage of angry motorists taking road rage to wholly new and unexpected levels—all accompanied by bemused commentary from unseen and often stoic drivers and passengers.

Double Life, a Short History of Sex in the USSR
Directed by Ināra Kolmane; Icarus Films, Documentary

The October Revolution ushered in an era of sexual freedom and liberation from bourgeois conventions. Satisfying sexual needs had to be “as simple as drinking a glass of water,” according to feminist Alexandra Kollontai who was at the forefront of the fight for the liberation of morals.

Rapidly, the situation spiraled out of control: Syphilis spread throughout the country, and, in 1922, an estimated number of nine million abandoned children—the “bezprizornye”—roamed the streets of Russia in criminal gangs. The number of abandoned women, with no resources, became alarming. In the ensuing social chaos, the regime operated a total U-turn. While official propaganda exalted the virtues of the “new” man whose healthy body had no other purpose than to work and toil for the glory of communism, sexual activity had been relegated to its strict reproductive function at the service of an under-performing Soviet birth rate. Community life and general surveillance would confine sexuality to a quasi clandestine status for the next thirty years.

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