As climate change intensifies and radically alters ecosystems and animal behavior, Russia’s second-largest city is enjoying a most unusual surprise. On the banks of St. Petersburg’s Neva River, people began to notice young seals in the spring. There are about 30,000 Baltic seals left, but they’ve never been spotted so far east, on St. Petersburg's shores. Or maybe they were simply good at hiding from humans and never noticed before. Now, the people of St Petersburg can see those amazing sea creatures that are not typical for the city. The film reflects the beauty of local wildlife and shows how humans can live in harmony with these denizens of the sea.
Vladimir Marin is a director and screenwriter and head of the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology’s video studio. He has taken part in 15 expeditions across the seas of Russia.
When the Covid-19 pandemic reached Russia in spring 2020 the government imposed a strict lockdown on its population of elderly. Millions were stranded in their flats, some living without immediate family and kin, and also lacking access to medication and even food. A municipal helpline was established for those seeking assistance in this dire situation. This film allows us to listen to some of the hundreds of phone calls received each day by the helpline. These conversations give rare insight into the anxieties of those who grew up in the USSR, and who have been largely left to fend for themselves since the fall of communism.
Tatiana Chistova is a Russian director and screenwriter, born in St.-Petersburg. Graduated from St-Petersburg University (Philological department, Master’s degree). Worked as assistant director in Lenfilm production studio. As 1-AD worked with world-famous Russian directors as Alexander Sokurov, Sergey Bodrov, Alexey Balabanov. Later graduated from Higher Courses for Film Directors in Moscow (the department of directing of feature and documentary movies) and started to write and direct her own films.
Maciek Hamela is a filmmaker and producer of documentary and fiction films and cofounder of Impakt Film a Warsaw-based production house specialized in arthouse cinema and international co-productions.
This film is a journey into the mind’s deepest recesses, an expose of its complexities as you’ve never seen before. Karen Marshall specializes in the treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a condition linked to a history of childhood abuse. But Karen is more than a therapist. She juggles 17 distinct personalities of her own. The film explores the intricacies of DID and its treatment as Karen helps her patient, Marshay Smith, a talented Black-Latina musician, confront past trauma and embrace her six distinct personalities. The film will cause audiences to question their own personality - is it a function of our brain, a social mask, or an illusion?
Awards: Best feature documentary nomination at Moscow International Film Festival in 2019; The Audience Award for Best Feature at Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in 2019.
Olga Lvoff is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a member of The European Film Academy.
Victor Ilyukhin is a non-fiction producer who has worked internationally in documentary film and television.
How does one come to terms with a world that has displayed ferocious evil over the past century, especially when one has personally witnessed such horrors? This film is the unusual story of a Jewish woman, a Holocaust survivor, who, as a child during the Nazi occupation of Odessa (Ukraine), found herself in a ghetto and then a death camp. She survived, however, thanks to an incredible and miraculous confluence of circumstances. By telling the true story of this woman’s fate, the film shows the importance of not losing our historical memory, not forgetting the terrible and tragic past, and yet still knowing that the world is full of good.
Natalya Bernadskaya is a film director, scriptwriter, editor and co-author of “Sdelano v NY” online TV-project. She came to the U.S. in the 1990s and lives in New York.
Production: Joe Berlinger, Eric Esrailian, Dave O'Connor. Music: Serj Tankian
Decades before the Holocaust happened, the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire were the first to face systematic extermination by a modern government. In 1915-16 the Turks slaughtered an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as part of their jihad, but this tragedy is still not a part of history curriculums. Still, the memories of this mass murder remain vivid for the descendants of victims. Using Terry George's 2016 historical romance, The Promise, as a leitmotif, Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger takes a deep look at this tragedy. This includes on-set filming and interviews with the cast and crew of The Promise, as well as interviews with professors, journalists, and filmmakers, as well as archive footage from victims’ descendants. The film is part of a special festival program dedicated to all victims of the Armenian genocide in 1915-16.
Awards: Emmy nominee for Outstanding Historical Documentary
Joseph Berlinger is a two-time Emmy-winning filmmaker who focuses on true crime documentaries. His films and docu-series draw attention to social justice issues.
Creative producers: Igor Sadreev, Alexander Urzhanov
Executive Producers: Rodion Сhереl, Anya Shinkaretskaya
Vladislav Listyev was a leading figure on Russian television during Perestroika. Twenty-five years have passed since Vladislav Listyev's murder, but the perpetrators of Russia's highest-profile contract killing of the mid-1990s have still not been found. Director Rodion Chepel decided to conduct his own investigation. He wants to find out the name of the person who ordered the murder. He took dozens of interviews with Listyev's colleagues, friends, and relatives, as well as with the investigators on the case. All answer the main question: who killed Vlad Listyev?
Rodion Chapel is a leading Russian journalist and reporter, famous as one of the creators of the series of programs, "This is a Real Story."
They are the forgotten Jews, living for more than 2,000 years in one of the most remote regions on Earth - the Caucasus region. Initially, these Jews lived in small villages, but during times of conflict they were persecuted, and so eventually they fled to cities that had mighty fortress walls. This is how the Jewish communities of Derbent, Nalchik, and others in the region coalesced. The filmmakers wanted to see how they live today, what they think, and what they’re planning. The film was made in the Mountain Jews’ historical places of residence: Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and Kabardia, as well as their new places of residence: in Russia, Israel, and the U.S.
Robert Azariev was born in Derbent, Dagestan (USSR), and came to the U.S. in 1993 where he studied at Columbia University. He then worked for Morgan Stanley and AIG as a financial analyst. This is his debut film.
Political protest culture in Putin’s Russia has spawned a new form of intellectual and social identity. Moscow street protests in the summer of 2019 were caused by the exclusion of independent candidates from elections to the Moscow City Duma. While protestors were brutally dispersed by riot police, the protests inspired many despite the arrests and criminal cases against activists. In the end, these detentions and injustices mobilized new forces of solidarity among human rights defenders and ordinary activist citizens, especially young people. Supporting political prisoners is now fashionable. But for how long?
Konstantin Davydkin graduated from the Higher Courses for Script Writers and Directors. Since 2003 he has authored and directed many documentary films.
The tragedy of the Holocaust in large part took place in Germany, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic States, and the crimes in those countries have been well documented. But what about the Jews of Moldova, which today is an independent country that was part of Romania during World War II? More than 75 years since the Holocaust, Yury and Tatyana Zagorcha still gather accounts of Jewish victims in northern Moldova, looking for unnamed graves and setting up monuments at massacre sites. Irina Shihova from Chișinău is a historian researching the Holocaust, and together with her colleagues, she has put dozens of forgotten Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and memorial sites back on Moldova’s map.
Evgeny Bezborodov has produced over 100 documentaries for Russia's television channels. His main fields of work are history, culture, the arts, and ecology.
Spring 2020 - the Covid-19 pandemic has New York City in its grip. Not a soul on the streets and no traffic in Midtown Manhattan, except for the wailing sirens of emergency vehicles taking the ill to hospitals. Parks, theaters, malls, offices, subway trains and city buses — all of them empty. When people go outside to buy food, there’s mandatory mask-wearing. The death rate is on the rise. After the initial shock, however, the city begins to fight back. Nurses and doctors from around the country come here to help, businesses begin food delivery programs, and slowly life returns to normalcy. Eventually, parks are busy with music and entertainment. The city is back. Life has returned.
Semyon Pinkhasov emigrated to the U.S. and became a celebrated fencing coach and human rights activist. Eventually, he turned his energy to making documentary films that focus on individuality in the face of totalitarianism.
Humor was viewed as a highly subversive activity in communist times, and comedians fell under the close gaze of the secret police. This film is about Bulgaria’s “King of Comedy” — the tragic story of life, love and destiny of a free man under communist dictatorship. Georgi Ivanov Partsalev was a famous Bulgarian actor known for his great theatrical and cinema roles and his LGBT lifestyle at a time when it was repressed. This is the story of how and why the communist secret service spied on the famous actor in the 1950s/1960s, and how gathered surveillance information about him was used over the years by the Communist Party. Partsalev’s secret police dossier bears witness to a time when the repressive state apparatus of the communist regime was used to reshape society and control every aspect of life.
Oleg Kovachev is a director/writer/director of photography of dozens of films. He was behind the re-opening of the legendary Vlaikova cinema in Sofia.
Channel One Russia producers: Svetlana Kolosova, Oleg Volnov, Konstantin Ernst.
He was the moral conscience of a captive nation, the most visible symbol of resistance to the Soviet regime. Creator of the hydrogen bomb, Andrei Sakharov was Russia’s most famous fighter for human rights and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He lived under six Soviet rulers and hoped he could influence their decisions, but along the way he influenced society. On May 21, 2021, the world-famous scientist would have turned 100. The documentary film by TEFI award winner Elena Yakovich tells about the difficult fate and incredible strength of Sakharov’s spirit, and how his legacy lives on.
Elena Yakovich is a film director, and a creator of documentaries about Joseph Brodsky, Sergey Dovlatov, Victor Nekrasov, Vasilii Aksenov, Ernst Neizvestny, and others.
Presented: Oscilloscope Laboratories
Executive Producers: Joe Berlinger, Michael Rapino, Ryan Kroft
Music: Serj Tankian
Governments hate him. People love him. Can one man change the world? Yes. International heavy metal rock star Serj Tankian has shown it’s possible. This film utilizes exclusive interviews and original footage, granting audiences backstage access to Serj, whose faith in music not only revolutionized heavy metal, but also world events. The musician has pursued social justice, harnessing the power of his songs and celebrity status for political change. Serj’s indomitable voice is just as likely to take on American corporate greed, as well as lambast the corrupt regime of his homeland. His decades-long campaign for formal U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide was finally confirmed by Congress. The film is part of a special festival program dedicated to all victims of the Armenian genocide in 1915-16.
Garin Hovannisian wrote about Armenia's struggles for democracy and justice in his book Family of Shadows (2010). His debut film 1915, (2015) won Armenia's top film prize, and his acclaimed documentary, I am not Alone (2020) received many audience awards.
In Bulgaria, intellectuals who lived under Soviet rule stood at a crossroads and had to face difficult questions that determined their fate. Many collaborated with the regime. Some did not and paid a high price for their independent spirit. This is a film about three leading Bulgarian writers — Rashko Sugarev (1941-1995), Binyo Ivanov (1939-1998), and Lyuben Petkov (1939-2016) — whose work would do honor to any national literature. Born in the war years, their childhood was in the starving post-war decades; their upbringing was forged by the Soviet Bulgarian state devoid of freedom and independent thoughts. Nevertheless, these writers, these three friends, created their own independent world of literature. This is not a film about their books and poems. Rather, it’s the story of how important events in their lives put them before a choice - What should they do, and What should they be? Citizens or lackeys of the regime?
Boyan Papazov is a Bulgarian writer, playwright, and director. He was an MP in the Grand National Assembly (1990-1991) and is an author of successful theater plays.
In the Caucasus region, on the border where Europe meets the Middle East, is one of Earth’s oldest nations. The Georgian people are heirs to an ancient tradition of religious singing. This film is a journey to that fabulous country, a story about Georgia’s exquisite Orthodox Christian chants. Scholars say, "the best that people have dedicated to God are the Georgian chants.” They are precious gems in mankind’s musical heritage. The film features the finest performances, bringing the audience into contact with the spiritual heights of the Georgian people.
Filipp Orlyansky was born in Sochi, Russia, and is working on a documentary series titled, Angelic Chants, which is dedicated to ancient church chants of different countries.
When Russian culture interacts with South American social mores, the results can be slightly awkward. Sergey, a theatre director who graduated from Moscow's renowned GITIS, arrives in Chile to participate in a homage to the Imperial era poet Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841), who was tragically killed in a duel. Sergey studies Lermontov's play Masquerade, which had been censored and forbidden by the Tsarist government. Meanwhile, a Chilean group of actors learns the same texts in Spanish. But when the creative process touches upon rumors about the poet's life, some uncomfortable moments arise. It turns out Chile has different ways of dealing with culture, sexuality, and censorship.
Antonio Caro Berezin was born into a Chilean-Russian family He is head of Lemuntu Producciones, where he creates documentaries dealing with intercultural relationships issues.
Two Russian brothers, both natural artistic geniuses. Alexander and Vladimir Burov are residents of the small village of Fedorovka-1 in the steppe in south-central Russia. Alexander is a realist; Vladimir is an abstractionist. They live in the same world, but each sees it in his own way. Their relationship is complex. They live on neighboring streets, but creative jealousy flares up. Alexander is a member of the Union of Artists, and Vladimir is a hermit who can't stand public exhibitions. The art historians who discovered them speak of the brothers as world-class artists. The true story of this rural ‘Russian Cain and Abel’ comes to a head at their personal exhibition in France, which was organized by their admirer.
Pavel Selin was born in Buryatia, Russia, and currently works as a television host and director of documentary films.
During the brutal years of Soviet repression, George Costakis somehow managed to secretly gather and preserve in his Moscow apartment some of the greatest works of the Russian Avant-garde art. The film features the collector’s daughter Aliki, artists, art critics and museum curators sharing memories of Costakis. They disagree, and question each other’s versions of his life. But through the fragments of their recollections the viewer can piece together the collector’s multifaceted personality that was anything but simple.
Elena Lobachevskaya was born in Moscow and studied screenwriting at VGIK (the Russian Institute of Cinematography). Costakis’ Gift is her directorial debut.
A refugee from Soviet Russia, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) found a new life in New York and became one of the greatest composers and concert pianists in his new homeland. This film is the first comprehensive biography of Rachmaninoff. Featuring commentary and performances by today's most respected pianists, this is a story of overcoming hardship and eventual redemption through the power of music. There are excerpts of recordings by Rachmaninoff, contrasted with performances by today’s pianists who comment on differences or similarities of their approach.
Peter Rosen has produced and directed over 100 full-length films and TV programs that have won awards at major film festivals.
Serge Hollerbach was one of New York City's most celebrated artists, a key member of the National Institute of Design, and the recipient of prestigious American and European awards. Although he was blind at the time of filming, Serge creates two paintings separated in time by a four-year period during which he has visibly aged and his eyesight has deteriorated. While painting, he discusses art and analyzes his long 95-year journey through life.
A’Dora Phillips (co-director and co-producer) runs the Vision & Art Project, a non-profit initiative that documents the lives and work of artists with vision loss.
Brian Schumacher (co-director and co-producer) is a practicing artist and educator. He is also creative director of The Vision & Art Project.
Teodor Currentzis is one of the most prestigious contemporary conductors; his interpretations of classical and contemporary music as well as his unorthodox conducting manner and new aesthetics of reading well-known music are a source of inspiration for music lovers all over the world. Born in Athens, Greece, Currentzis spent seven years in Perm, a province of Russia. He founded the Territory Festival of Contemporary Art and supervised the Diaghilev Festival. This film is the story of two weeks spent with the famous conductor.
Sasha Kretsan is a founder of the Umbra Penumbra studio and one of the most successful YouTube channels in Russian.
The pillars of modern theater are in large part built upon the genius of a Tsarist-era theater director, Konstantin Stanislavsky. Students around the world train according to his ‘Stanislavsky system’. This film explores the acting profession and its impact on viewers. Using rare footage from archives in Russia, America, Germany, and France, the author tells about the life and legacy of the great Russian theater master, about his revolutionary system that changed the world. The film includes interviews with famous actors and their teachers, directors, and producers.
Yulia Bobkova works at Ostrov Studio in Moscow as a director and scriptwriter.
Dedicated to the 20th century’s greatest impresario, this film is a journey through the "virtual" museum of Sergei Diaghilev. Each room tells about the particular field of Diaghilev’s activities. The "excursion" is led by "guides" - famous figures in disciplines related to the work of Diaghilev, including ballet great Nikolai Tsiskaridze; as well as fashion historian Alexandre Vassilyev. The focus is not only on Diaghilev’s new artistic ideas but also on his talent as an organizer, as well as his discoveries in the field of producing, public relations, and advertising.
Svetlana Astresova worked in Information Programs for Kultura TV channel; since 2015 she is a director and producer at the Cherry Orchard films.
The film is the final message from a brilliant musician, a great teacher, and an amazing person, telling the story of the outstanding 20th-century cellist, Natalia Shakhovskaya, professor of the Moscow Conservatory and Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía, a holder of the honorary title People's Artist of the USSR. Natalia's name is etched in the history of both Russian and world music. She had many opportunities to leave Russia, but it was completely unacceptable because for her, the notion of the Motherland, honor, and dedication to music were sacred values. The Queen of Spain presented to Natalia the Civil Order of Knighthood of Alphonse X the Wise, and she has conformed to these knightly ideals and instilled them in her students.
Irina Zaitseva is a film director and head of ARS Studios. She has written and directed more than 20 documentaries.
Poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) was one of Russia’s greatest 20th-century literary geniuses, but long after her death, suddenly her reputation became sullied over revelations that she had abandoned her daughter in 1919. Her life still provokes much discussion and antagonistic interpretations since her suicide in 1940. This film gathered Russian celebrities – artists and writers - to respond to the accusations hurled at Marina Tsvetaeva. Based on letters, diaries, and archival documents, the film reveals the most personal details of Tsvetaeva's life from 1917 to 1922, which was a time of the Revolution and Civil War. It’s impossible to explain what Tsvetaeva's true motives were. The director wants to air an alternative point of view to the insults.
Alla Damsker was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts.
Though confined to a wheelchair, he was one of modern Russia’s greatest comic geniuses. Vadim Fisson was the creator, director, and artistic genius behind Comic Trust, the world-famous St. Petersburg theater. While officially classified as a "person with disabilities", he lived a dynamic life and conquered all the tragic vicissitudes of fate with his boundless talent, wisdom, and humor. The theater that he gave birth to, Comic Trust, continues to live on and bring joy to thousands across Russia and the world.
Svetlana Nasenkova is a filmmaker of the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio, and member of the Union of Cinematographers.
Sound Engineer: Ivan Apilat
When the Chernobyl nuclear power station exploded in 1985 it seemed that Time itself came to a halt for the towns and villages in the immediate vicinity. Indeed, life for residents in areas contaminated by radioactive fallout has remain frozen. In this film, the public hears testimonies from residents, who describe experiences that previously they wouldn’t dare to speak aloud. While that fateful catastrophe seems to have faded into the distant past, the fact is that the consequences will still be felt for generations to come. Despite the lingering devastation and danger, something stops residents of contaminated areas from abandoning everything they have and moving to a safer and cleaner place. Why is that?
This genre is called "post-apocalyptic documentary”. It’s a post-reality technique in all its phantasmagoria, transmitted by traditional film means, revealing tomorrow's reality for all mankind.
Julia Rytik worked at the Gorky film studio. Since 2019, she has been working at Mir Media as an assistant director and editing director.
As a primarily landlocked country, most Americans will be surprised to learn that Russia has long had a mighty navy. This film is about the modern-day, round-the-world expedition of three Russian sailing ships — Kruzenshtern, Sedov, and Pallada — that journeyed to Antarctica and then to the Russian Arctic. This expedition was dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Russian Navy’s circumnavigation of Antarctica in 1819-21; the second time in history that such a difficult feat had been accomplished. As part of the current expedition, teenage Russian cadets and cabin boys learned everything about sailing ships. The film shows how the cadets spent their weeks on the ships, sailing around the globe.
This film shows a new film language. Three ships sail the oceans as seen from a copter. This 21st-century technology mixes with 19th-century seafaring. The simulation of historical events allows the viewer to become an accomplice in real-time. With these shots, you easily feel the bygone era of Great Geographical Discoveries.
Alexander Ilyin is a Member of the Union of Cinematographers of Russia and a director of non-fiction and animation films.
The first day of summer. A house is on fire. Labeled as a “documentary thriller”, this film was made by a blogger who is a professional firefighter. It offers an immersive experience of going inside a ‘bag of fire’, a burning house. This is genuine and not a staged trick.
Kirill Alatortsev has been working in the 104th Fire Department of the Vsevolozhsk District since 2016, since 2019 he is the Head of the guard. "I’ve put out more than 600 fires, and I’m not going to quit this exciting job".
The "Fresh Look" program just couldn't ignore a very interesting film that was shot on a mobile phone. This is the story of a woman who survived the Holocaust.
We were convinced by a combination of seemingly incompatible things: The Holocaust, which we know only from newsreels (mostly black and white), and the modern means of communication - a smartphone that everyone has in their pockets. We see this short but momentous film as an undoubted gem in "Fresh Look".
Nina Zaretskaya was born in Moscow and currently lives and works in New York. She graduated from the Moscow State University with a Ph.D. in Philology and has made a career as a media art curator, a documentary producer, TV journalist, video maker, show host, founder and director of Art Media Center «TV Gallery» (1991).
Just how much do we remember from our childhood and why is it important to us? Fragments of elusive memories, as well as voices and shimmers of light – these often are the flickering sensations of childhood. They follow us all our life, but how do we view these experiences later in life. These memories are somewhere in the deep recesses of our memory in the form of bits of conversations, flashes of light and shadows. With this film, the director tries to capture his daughter’s early years growing up, in order to provide her with her future memories — by creating an intricate labyrinth, where memories have their own path of development. Scenes and fragments cling to each other on an associative basis.
In this video essay the director shows the process of the child's cognition of the world by utilizing cinematic techniques that play with light and shadows. The shadow is the main background, symbolizing the hidden world that’s the main one in the formation of the child.
Mikhail Gorobchuk graduated from Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK), Faculty of Cinematography. He’s received numerous awards, including "Best Cinematographer" in 2013.