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The Desert of Forbidden Art USA / RUSSI A


Directors: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Producers: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Screenwriters: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Cinematographers: Alexander Dolgin, Gennadi Balitski Editor: Tchavdar Georgiev 2010/color/80 min.


TCHAVDAR GEORGIEV


Tchavdar Georgiev has produced and edited award-winning programs for ABC, PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic, Channel 1 Russia and MTV Russia. In addition, he served as an editor for We Live in Public, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009. He has also directed public service announcements and documentaries.


AMANDA POPE


In her two-decade-long career, Amanda Pope has racked up directing, produc- ing, writing and editing credits. Her award-winning documentaries have been broadcast nationally on PBS. Currently an associate professor in production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Pope has served on juries and boards, includ- ing that of the Women in Film Foundation in Los Angeles and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ student film section.


In the mid- to late twentieth century, Russian artist Igor Savitsky, driven to undo Stalin’s legacy of “anti-Soviet” censorship, singlehandedly unearthed and collected more than 40,000 artworks banned by the dictator. This eye-opening documentary traces Savitsky’s path into the desert of what is now western Uzbekistan, far from the reach of the KGB, where he wangled the help of a local Communist official to build a museum, initially to house ethnic artifacts from the area. But then he stumbled across an exhibition catalog that revealed a remarkable cross-pollination between the Russian avant-garde and the work of local artists. He began searching for examples and found a trove of treasures hidden away, neglected or forgotten about, much of it created by artists who had fled Moscow following the 1917 revolution for the relative freedom of the outlying republics.


Their works, Savitsky found, drew on many western European art traditions— including the Italian Renaissance, Cubism and Impressionism—while incorporating the influences of various local ethnicities and the techniques used for Oriental miniatures and Russian icons. Having discovered this “forbidden” art, he plunged headlong into efforts to find and restore it, amassing a vast collection in the process. Unfortunately, what was once considered a danger to the Soviet system may now be threatened by the same kind of fears on the part of Muslim extremists.


Drawing on a wealth of archival materials and interviews, codirectors Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev also brought Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner on board to narrate diary excerpts, giving voice to the artists of the time.


—VAL MOSES


67


DOCUMENTARY


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