Power, Poetics, and Play: Documenting Soviet Legacies, a documentary film series that brings a critical lens to better our understanding of Russia and its neighbors, commenced in Spring 2021 as a special project of REEI’s Russian Studies Workshop. The popular series, which features screenings followed by critical discussions by faculty experts (and the filmmakers themselves sometimes), continued in Fall 2021 with a program of three films, each of which was selected as part of IU’s Themester program and its theme of “Resilience.” In contrast to the exclusively online format of the film series during Spring 2021, in the fall semester all screenings took place in person in the Shreve Auditorium in IU’s Global and International Studies Building. On September 23, a screening of Vitaly Mansky’s Truba [Pipeline] (2013), a documentary travelogue that casts a spotlight on the various communities situated along the pipeline transporting gas from Siberia to Western Europe, drew dozens of interested viewers. Professor Margarita Balmaceda (Seton Hall University, author of Russian Energy Chains) ZOOM-ed in from Budapest to provide commentary and respond to questions in a bookend conversation moderated by IU’s Professor Michael De Groot (International Studies). In Kolyma: Road of Bones (2017), screened on October 14, director Stanislaw Mucha juxtaposes the atrocities of the GULAG (in part through the poignant observations of writer and Kolyma GULAG survivor Varlam Shalamov) with the lives of local people now living along the 1200-mile “road of bones” that stretches from Magadan to Yakutsk—indigenous, newcomers, those with family histories connected to the labor camps, and those who, somehow, have never heard of the camps. Professor Tyler Kirk (University of Alaska Fairbanks) joined RSW faculty virtually to introduce and answer audience questions about the film, which won Best Documentary Film at the Achtung Berlin Film Festival 2018. The series concluded on November 4 when Ukrainian-born writer-director Sergei Loznitsa joined the audience virtually for a Q&A session following the screening of his State Funeral (2019), which pieces together original footage of Stalin’s funeral and dramatically reframes it in documenting without any additional narration the four days leading up to to the momentous state funeral. Loznitsa offers clear, stark images of the massive ceremony in all its mind-numbing pageantry as well as the propaganda and cult of personality that surrounded the leader in life and in death. Stay tuned for more RSW film screenings in fall 2022!
For more information about the series and the individual films it features, see RSW Film Series.
Bethany Romashov (PhD, Slavics, 2015; MA, Slavics, 2008) is currently pursuing an MS Ed. in Counseling Education and Counselor Education.