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# 5, July 2004

Imperial Acorn —→ National Oaks: The Eighth KinoForum

By Vladimir Padunov, University of Pittsburgh

Sponsored by the Confederation of Unions of Filmmakers, the Eighth Forum of Films from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Republics (usually referred to simply as "KinoForum") ran 24―30 May 2004 at the Kino Center, located in the Krasnopresnenskaia neighborhood of Moscow. Almost every part of the preceding sentence requires some historical explanation and perspective; each has become the locus of intense internecine strife—ideological, economic, and judicial—between the Confederation and the Russian Union of Filmmakers, both of which trace their roots back to the final years of the USSR (1986-91). During those fateful years and the early years of the Russian Federation (1992-1998), the current heads of the two Unions—Rustam Ibragimbekov, Chairman of the Confederation since 1993, and Nikita Mikhalkov, President of the Russian Union since 1998—were close friends and colleagues, collaborating on a number of films, including Mikhalkov's 1994 Academy Award winning film Burnt By the Sun. Over the past half-decade, however, relations between the two have deteriorated to the point that their respective Unions are engaged in a virtual war. This year's KinoForum is particularly fascinating set against this backdrop.

Background History

Following the now (in)famous Fifth Congress of the USSR Union of Filmmakers in May 1986, the new leadership of the Union (directors Elem Klimov and, for a time, Andrei Smirnov) convened a series of plenums between 1987 and 1989 to discuss the future of the Soviet film industry. While these discussions addressed a host of issues—ranging from state censorship to the role of the government in film financing; from alternative models of film production to revamping distribution—two related issues recurred: the overly centralized structure of the film industry (inherited from the Stalinist period), which at every stage and in every respect subordinated and marginalized the film industries of fourteen of the fifteen Soviet republics; and the absence of a self-standing Union of Filmmakers in the fifteenth and imperially dominating republic, the Russian Federation.

These discussions came to crisis during the Fifth Plenum of the Union of Filmmakers ("Democratizing Society and National Filmmaking under the Conditions of Perestroika") on 15-16 November 1988. In preparation for the Sixth Congress of the Union of Filmmakers (scheduled for 5-7 June 1990, that is, more than a year ahead of schedule), the delegates at the Plenum resolved to begin work on re-organizing the Union into a Confederation of [Republican] Unions of Filmmakers, a re-organization to be ratified at the upcoming Congress. To facilitate this step, the delegates also resolved to establish at long last a self-standing Russian Union of Filmmakers, which officially came into being in February 1990 when its first Congress provided it with legal status. In the prevailing spirit of democratization, the elected President of the Russian Union, director Igor' Maslennikov, decided to appoint fellow director Sergei Solov'ev as co-President (they remained co-Presidents from 1990-94; Solov'ev continued to serve alone as President until 1997). The Russian Union of Filmmakers, together with voting delegates from Mosfilm and Lenfilm, the two super-production studios of the Soviet film industry, represented the interests of the Russian Federation at the Sixth Congress.

When Elem Klimov declined to be nominated for a second term as First Secretary of the USSR Union of Filmmakers at the Congress, the delegates elected Tadzhik director Dovlat Khudonazarov to the post of President (a meaningful, if symbolic, change of title from First Secretary), as well as two Vice-Presidents: Andrei Razumovskii (founder of Fora Films, the first independent film production studio in the Soviet Union) and Maria Zvereva (a scriptwriter). In her study of Soviet cinema during perestroika, Anna Lawton recalls Razumovskii's famous quip about the elections: "'This Congress was no less revolutionary than the previous one. Think about it, they elected a Tadzhik as President, and as Vice-Presidents, a woman and a capitalist'" (Kinoglasnost: Soviet Cinema in Our Time, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992: 65).

After the election of its new leadership, the delegates to the Sixth Congress voted to transform the imperially modeled USSR Union of Filmmakers into the proposed Confederation of [Republican] Unions of Filmmakers, redistributing representation and power almost equally among the fifteen republics; "almost" because the Russian Federation, after all, had three separate representatives (and, therefore, three votes)—the Russian Union, Mosfilm, and Lenfilm. Since, however, the Confederation remained the supreme organization representing the interests of film industries in all parts of the USSR, Russia's three votes merely reproduced its traditional status as "Great Russians" without providing it a controlling bloc within the Confederation itself.

With the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, all former fifteen republics became "newly independent states" (NIS), and, with the exception of the three Baltic republics, joined together in an informal Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), now officially represented by the Confederation of Unions of Filmmakers. At the same time, organizational supremacy within the territory of the Russian Federation passed from "Soviet" to "Russian" agencies. In effect, the basis of the power relationship between the Confederation and the Russian Union of Filmmakers was inverted overnight, even if the practical implications of the change were not immediately apparent: the Confederation was now either under the organizational―and economic―umbrella of the Russian Union or, as an independent organization, was without both direct state support and assured access to financial resources. Not surprisingly, then, the Unions first clashed over two essential issues: ownership of the means of production and property.

The first issue was quickly decided in the Russian courts: means of production reverted to the respective film studios located in different parts of the Russian Federation (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg). While these studios were allowed to be partially privatized through various holding companies, the studios themselves remained under the organizational aegis of the Russian Union of Filmmakers. The second issue, however, was more problematic. After lengthy and complicated litigation, the Russian Union acquired ownership of the extensive network of rest-vacation houses located throughout the Russian Federation that had previously belonged to the USSR Union of Filmmakers, as well as of House of Cinema, the building that housed the main screening hall of the former Union, a series of conference halls and smaller viewing rooms, the offices of the entire administrative apparatus of the Union, and its inexpensive but prestigious restaurant. While the Confederation, as the reconstituted heir to the USSR Union of Filmmakers, also continued to maintain its administrative offices in the House of Cinema until 2003, it was awarded a controlling interest (66%) over Kino Center, the complex of inter-connected buildings, the financing of which had been provided by the former Union.

Simply put, even in the early years of the Russian Federation, the Kino Center, which opened in 1986, was already a "money cow." Housing not only a series of small, cinématheque-like screening halls for the Russian Union's Museum of Cinema (directed since its establishment by film historian Naum Kleiman), but also the Museum's archives, the Kino Center is in addition the home of several commercial multiplex-like screening halls, a large auditorium, and Arlekino, a highly profitable restaurant (and now night-club and casino). It is not surprising, therefore, that Mikhalkov and the Russian Union appealed to the courts several times (unsuccessfully) since 1998 to have ownership transferred to them from the Confederation. Indeed, their latest setback in the courts prompted Mikhalkov to announce in May 2004 that the Russian Union would sell its 34% interest in the Kino Center. His declared intention―to use the funds from the sale to renovate the Union's largest and oldest rest home for members―has put the Museum of Cinema into danger: forced to move from the Kino Center, it has not been provided with any alternative space either for its archives or for its screenings.

Despite (or because of) the feuding over real estate and capital, the two Unions avoided an open rupture for several years. Indeed, the first four KinoForums (1995, 1997, 1999, and 2000) were scheduled by the Confederation within the framework of the Moscow International Film Festival, which is sponsored and organized by the Russian Union (the MIFF was a bi-annual event held in July until 1999, when it became an annual event at the end of June). These early KinoForums were but one of the satellite programs supplementing the main competition program of the MIFF, with all of the KinoForums' screenings and discussions taking place in the House of Cinema itself. Although the Fifth (2001) and Sixth (2002) KinoForums were also held in the House of Cinema, the Confederation took its first steps in separating the KinoForum from the MIFF: it began to schedule them in late May, a month ahead of the Moscow Festival.

The escalating animus triggered by Mikhalkov's attempts to expropriate the Confederation's property holdings reached a flash-point in late 2002―early 2003: Mikhalkov's eviction of the Confederation's offices from the House of Cinema was countered by the Confederation's temporary shutdown of electricity to the Museum of Cinema. The final straw (from the point of view of the Confederation) was the Russian Union's attempt in May 2003 to create an alternative―and competing―venue within the House of Cinema for screening films from the CIS and the Baltic republics, deliberately scheduled to overlap with the KinoForum. Starting with the Seventh (2003) KinoForum, the Confederation moved all of its activities, screenings and discussions, to the Kino Center, which had also become its administrative center after eviction from the House of Cinema.

The Eighth KinoForum (2004)

KinoForum is not a competition festival. Instead, its primary goal is to provide a series of informational screenings, divided into three programs of films—animations (curated by Natal'ia Lukinykh), documentaries (by Irina Izvolova), and feature films (by Konstantin Shcherbakov and Elena Stishova)—produced in the CIS and Baltic republics over the past year, and to assemble film critics and representatives of the national film industries for a number of roundtables to discuss ways of promoting cooperation among these industries. In addition, since moving the KinoForum to Kino Center, the organizers have introduced a new component: a retrospective of films by a major Soviet director, organized and curated by famed film historian Neia Zorkaia (in 2003 she focused on Iulii Raizman; in 2004 on Mikhail Kalatozov).

This year's feature film program consisted of 27 entries (6 shorts and 21 full-length films), including one film each from Azerbaijan (Mirbala Salimov's short In the Embrace of Fire [2003]) and Tajikistan (Umed Mirozoshirinov's Statue of Love [2003]—the first feature film made in Tajikistan in more than a half decade); two each from Estonia (Rando Pettai's Made in Estonia [2004] and Kezdus Sulev's Somnabula [2003]), Kyrgyzstan (Ernest Abdyzhaparov's The Village Authorities [2004] and Erkin Saliev's The Cloud [2004]), Latvia (Krievs Arvids's You're Sexy When You're Sad [2003] and Laila Pakalninia's The Python [2003]), Russia (Nikita Arzhakov's short The Old Man [2003] and Il'dar Iagafarov's Heavenly Mountain [2004]—the first film ever made in Tartarstan and in the Tartar language), and Ukraine (Mikhail Belikov's Gold Fever [2003] and Alla Pasikova's On the Edge of the World [2002]); three shorts from Georgia (Soso Dzhachvliani's My First Love [2003], Keti Machavariani's Glass Fragment [2003], and Giorgii Ovashvili's Above Sea Level [2003]); four from Kazakhstan (Rustem Abdrashev's Renaissance Island [2004], Kanymbek Kasymbekov's Do You Need a Puppy? [2003], Marat Sarulu's The Rough River, The Placid Sea [2004], and Nariman Turebaev's Little People [2003]); and six from Uzbekistan (Dzhakhangir Kasymov's The Giant and the Midget [2004], Timur Musakov's short Father [2004], Zul'fikar Musakov's Boys in Heaven 2 [2003], Khilol Nasimov's Memory [2003], Isuf Razykov's The Healer [2003], and Elkin Tuichiev's and Aiub Shakhobiddinov's The Merchant [2003]). In addition, the feature film program included two co-productions, one from Kazakhstan—Russia (Gul'shad Omarova's The Shiz: Fifty-Fifty [2004]) and one from Ukraine—Russia (Roman Balaian's Bright is the Night [2004]).

Isuf Razykov

The cinema of Central Asia dominated this year's KinoForum, just as it has been a dominating presence on the international film festival circuit of the past few years. The dominance, however, was not simply quantitative (15 of 27 films, counting the co-production), but qualitative as well. Over the past decade, Central Asian filmmakers—especially in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan (virtually no feature films have been made in Tajikistan or Turkmenistan in this interval)—have managed to overcome the crushing weight of the film-script, inherited from Soviet cinema, where the verbal text always had precedence over the visual. Unlike the films from the other former republics, which continue to be script-driven in their dialogs, themes, and social messages, the films from Central Asia are predominantly visually-driven. This does not mean that these films necessarily minimize dialog, avoid thematics, or lack social messages. Razykov's The Healer provides a very instructive example.

Since becoming the head of Uzbekfilm Studio in 1999 after the international success of The Orator (1998), Razykov has completed a series of films, each of which is organized around the spoken word and contains unequivocal social commentary: Women's Kingdom (1999), A Dance for Men (2002), and Comrade Boykenzhaev (2002). His latest film, The Healer, pushes both of these to the extreme: a female doctor is sent by the Ministry of Health to investigate the death of a patient at the hands of a surgeon in a provincial hospital. The surgeon, who has studied and lived abroad, undertakes only the most dire cases, where patients have a minimal chance of surviving surgery, but also have no chance to remain alive without it. Even the members of his staff who disagree with his style of leadership and procedures are convinced that he is a worker of miracles. The film's soundtrack consists of non-stop monologs (instructions to the female doctor, entries from her report, diagnoses of patients, and medical summaries) and dialogs (many of which reek of "bureaucratese," others are filled with medical jargon, still others with heavy moralizing). And yet, the film is a visual tour de force, with the visual text constantly toying with the verbal. The verbal layer of the film acquires "meaning" (frequently one that is at odds with the words themselves) by its interaction and play with by the visual text; but it is always the visual text that forms that "meaning."

Similarly, Abdrashev's Renaissance Island (a debut film by a young filmmaker) is organized around two verbal registers: a voice-over reading poems by Abdrashev's father (a Kazakh poet repressed during the early post-Stalinist period) and dialog that is immediately marked by its moment in history (the early 1960s), whether in the officious language of the local party chief or in the school-age conversations of its young heroes. Renaissance Island is a coming-of-age film that as much explores the betrayal of first love because of social pressures as it reconstructs the spirit and feel of a long-lost era (several critics compared the film to Satybaldy Narymbetov's Biography of a Young Accordion Player [1994], set in the same period—the last years of Khrushchev's rule— and was extremely well-received among international film festivals). But, in distinction to Russian filmmakers (for example), Abdrashev does not attempt to make the soundtrack function as a way of recapturing the "realism of the past." Instead, Abdrashev's is a "constructed reality," both audial and visual, frequently at odds with history, but is always in tune with the visual images: Iurii Gagarin's flight into space is "announced" on radio Maiak, even though the station was established three years after Gagarin's flight; his lovers send each other Valentine's Day cards, even though these did not arrive on the territory of the former Soviet Union until the mid-1990s. In other words, Abdrashev consistently refuses to subordinate his images to "historical authenticity," whether in language or in events. His is a visual story.

Sarulu's The Rough River, The Placid Sea provides yet a third example of the way Central Asian filmmakers have succeeded in subordinating word to image in their films. In effect, the film is simultaneously a pre- and sequel to In Spe (1993), his very successful―on the international film festival circuit―film about three brothers, their private civil war, and their father's greenhouse. In the final analysis, it is a silent film because none of the dialog occurs in the present of the screen time. Instead, the soundtrack consists entirely of the brothers' voices recollecting what was said to each other at different moments in the past. The subtitles, therefore, are forced to indicate in brackets which of the unnamed brothers is speaking at any moment ("youngest," "middle," or "oldest"), but the moment of speaking never coincides with the moment of action. Images represent; words reflect.

Unlike the preceding films, which are primarily art-house productions or films aimed at festivals, Turebaev's Little People and Musakov's Boys in Heaven 2 (a sequel to his immensely popular Boys in Heaven [2002]—both in Uzbekistan and at film festivals) are commercial films that also have an appeal with the festival circuit (indeed, Little People was already screened at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2004). Central to each of the films are the day-to-day lives of the "twenty-something" generation of boy-men in contemporary urban spaces in Central Asia. Turebaev's heroes are a pair of "sidewalk salesmen," an analog to the West's "door-to-door salesmen"; Musakov's is a group of four school-friends who had competed for the love of a classmate in the first film. Both films are "situationals," with the narrative consisting of a string of character-forming experiences and adventures that transform boyhood innocence into manly responsibility. The films are easy on the eye; the conversations are consistently light and filled with banter. In other words, each of the directors has made an important transition from script to dialog.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Omarova's debut film, The Shiz, in which all on-screen conversations are channeled in one direction: to communicate a social reality―that is, to lay bare individual identity within an economic setting. The film bears witness throughout to the guiding hand of Sergei Bodrov, Sr., who not only co-wrote the script and produced the film, but who is also Omarova's acknowledged cinematic god-father (she starred in his film The Non-Professionals [1985], which was shot in Kazakhstan). The central hero, a young man nicknamed "The Shiz," struggles to find a moral compass in a world that is metaphorically represented as a bare-knuckles boxing match, where all rules―ethical and legal―are suspended in the name of money. The tacked-on redemptive ending is merely the final nail in the film's coffin. This is more than regrettable; it is tragic. Omarova has a wonderful eye and a skillful hand. She simply needs to kill the father.

The documentary program consisted of 17 films; one each from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Tajikistan, and Ukraine; two from Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, and Uzbekistan; and one co-production, Murad Ibragimbekov's Oil (Azerbaijan and Russia [2003]), which won a Silver Lion at the 2003 Venice International Film Festival.

Documentary filmmaking, well respected and "hard-hitting" during the final half-decade of the Soviet Union, has continued to flourish in the newly independent states. The program included both films by directors who had acquired an international reputation during perestroika (the Ukrainian Aleksandr Koval'; the Latvian Herz Frank, whose documentary The Highest Court [1987] on capital punishment received world-wide acclaim; the Russo-Kazakh Vladimir Tiul'kin, whose quirky documentary Lord of the Flies [1990] about one man's personal crusade against "the source of infection" became a docu-cult phenomenon) and films by directors who have established their reputations after their respective republics became independent states (the Estonian Jaak Kil'mi, the Lithuanian Rimantas Gruodis, the Russian Ivan Tverdovskii, the Tajik Mairam Iusupova).

Two documentaries dominated all of the discussions among film critics, both during the scheduled roundtables and during the informal breaks: Ibragimbekov's Oil, which was part of the opening night's gala program, and Herz Frank's Dear Juliet (2003). Oil, a very short film (5:30 minutes), is also very passionate, even though the film consists entirely of "found footage," that is, of old newsreels that were stored in archives in Azerbaijan and Russia. From this point of view, Ibragimbekov's film is in the tradition of early Soviet director Esfir Shub, who pioneered this docu-genre in Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927). What is striking about the film is not that Ibragimbekov succeeded in unearthing such rare and forgotten footage, but that he assembled it in such a powerful way. The film is dynamic and filled with the spirit of another early Soviet pioneer in documentary filmmaking, Dziga Vertov: rapid cuts, jarring oppositions, fast movement, steady rhythm, and intertitles that build to a crescendo.

Although Frank's film belongs to an entirely different tradition (it is narrative driven) and register (it is understated), its impact on the audience was as great. Dear Juliet bears all of Frank's now well-established trademarks: the use of a behind-the-lens voice; a deceptive "flat-ness" of focus; a concentration on one individual that slowly reveals unexpected depth and elevates the individual to a moralistic universality; a dawning recognition in the audience that behind the banal utterances lies a deeply ironic perception of humans and history. In every respect, Ibragimbekov and Frank made an odd couple.

The animation program consisted of 25 films; one each from Belarus, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; two each from Armenia, Estonia, and Ukraine; three each from Latvia, Lithuania, and Kazakhstan; and seven from Russia. As opposed to the feature film and documentary programs, both of which were screened in one of Kino Center's smaller viewing halls, the animation program was screened on three large, over-head monitors in the Arlekino nightclub, with the audience seated around small cocktail tables. In addition, since all of the animation films were shorts, they were screened in the course of one day, with a short break halfway through the program. With the exception of the opening night screening, however, this program was by far the most attended by the general public, including large groups of children.

And yet, the animation program was unquestionably the weakest of the three, not just because the uninterrupted flow of shorts quickly deadened the audience's responses and ability to distinguish one film from another, but more importantly because with very few exceptions, the animation films were marked by a disturbing sameness of images and rhythms ("poetic" shots of flight and "sugared" images of children and the elderly; slow-measured pans and fluid transitions). In many respects the films were simply very out-of-date considering the work done in animation in the past decade, hearkening back either to the view that animation films are targeted exclusively to the very young or to the belief that animation is no more than an expressive vehicle to communicate its maker's emotional states.

For this reason, two films in particular (both Russian) stood out: Ivan Maksimov's Wind Along the Shore (2004) and Mikhail Leipunskii's and Dmitrii El'iashev's Bacon (2004). Maksimov's is the more traditional of the two (both in form and content), focusing on the way the wind, unpredictable and changeable at the point where water and land meet, affects―even rules―a day in the life of the villagers whose homes are located on the shoreline. Linked visually to the steady passage of time (from dawn to dusk), the film's rhythm duplicates the constant inconstancy of the gusts, whether inland or out to sea. Leipunskii's and El'iashev's Bacon is something completely different: deliberately rough, crude, and jagged, it is also profoundly irreverent and politically incorrect. The conventionally innocent "three little pigs" are here re-cast as a paramilitary (or special forces) unit, armed to the teeth, and engaged in a "search-and-destroy" operation, though not against the anticipated "big bad wolf." It is a minimalist work in every respect: extremely short (1:20 minutes), simple graphics, rapid cuts, and only one line (two words) of dialog at the end. But its rhythm and pacing, flow of images, and unexpected twists are executed masterfully. It was the only animation film in the program aimed explicitly at an adult audience. The directors have allowed KinoKultura to include Bacon in its July issue.

Conclusions: Roundtables, Critics, and Scholarship

While the three programs of screenings at the Eighth KinoForum were an unqualified success (after all, even the curator of the animation program could only show what had been made), the same cannot be said of the two roundtables organized for the critics representing the various national film industries of the newly independent states (and critics from former "satellite states" in Eastern Europe, as well as from Western Europe and the United States). Each of the roundtables suffered from a fatal flaw. The first roundtable, devoted to a discussion of the films that had been screened, was marked by a collective refusal to deal with the visual. Despite the presence of many of the directors, for three hours the assembled critics talked about scripts, themes, messages, and social relevance; at no point was there a consideration of images, visual narrativity, shot editing, filmic rhythms or tonalities. When this issue was finally raised, the directors hotly agreed, but the critics relentlessly continued in the same vein for another hour.

The second roundtable, focusing on ways to foster and facilitate greater cooperation among the fifteen national film industries and to improve the distribution of each others' films within their respective countries, was marked by a parochial (national) individualism that was incapable of looking at any "big picture" (regional, intranational, or global). At most, critics described at length the current state of filmmaking (always deplorable) and problems (mostly financial) facing filmmakers in their own corner of the world. At no point was there any attempt to address issues like the fluid migration of workers in the film industries (not just actors and directors, but also cameramen, sound technicians, composers, editors, etc.) across each others' borders, the increased role of film festivals in disseminating each others' films within their national borders, possible initiatives for future cultural exchanges, etc. Beyond the repeated call to have future KinoForums scheduled in other countries of the newly independent states, the critics did not have a sense of how their national film industries fit into a new European and Eurasian order.

Even critics from the former East European "satellite states" adopted the same narrow point of view and tactics. By calling for the inclusion of their national cinemas in future KinoForums, they almost unreflectively were expressing their nostalgia for the paradise lost of the Cold War map of Europe. Their call was answered: in his closing comments, Rustam Ibragimbekov announced that the Confederation's secretariat had just decided to expand the focus of the KinoForum beginning next year to include all of the "satellite states." Henceforth, KinoForum will officially be called "The Forum of National Filmmakers." Just as the original name of the Confederation adopted at the Sixth Congress in 1990 contained an unspoken qualifier (the Confederation of [Republican] Unions of Filmmakers), so will KinoForum 2005 contain its own unspoken qualifier: The Forum of [former Soviet and East European] National Filmmakers.

But it is unfair to expect critics to be directly engaged in the production, distribution, or screenings of films, or even in the administration of policies in the film industry. Criticism is a part of a different industry and historical trajectory: scholarship. And within this industry, the Confederation and the critics at the Eighth KinoForum have already made a significant contribution. Since 2002, the Confederation has published its own quarterly journal, also called KinoForum, which is co-edited by Shcherbakov and Stishova, the curators of the feature film program. The journal is unique and invaluable; every issue contains information and material that is simply not available anyplace else—even in their respective countries—about filmmakers, films, and the film industries of the former Soviet republics. Indeed, with the exception of Russia, few of the other newly independent states have their own film journals and none have a journal that focuses specifically on the cinema of that nation. What is especially admirable about the editors of KinoForum is their deliberate policy of not allowing the journal to become Russo-centric; Russia is merely one of fourteen other national cinemas. Indeed, it took the death of Klimov, the former head of the USSR Union of Filmmakers, for a Russian to appear on the cover of the journal (1, 2004).

Each issue of the journal consists of eight rubrics, always opening with a statement From the Editor, written alternately by the two editors-in-chief. This is followed by Topical Issues, which contains from two to four articles on events within the various film industries and surveys of national cinemas (for example, Kazakh in 1, 2002 and 2, 2003; Azeri in 2, 2002; Ukraine in 3, 2002; Belarus in 4, 2002; Kyrgyz in 1, 2003; Latvian in 3, 2003; Tartarstan in 4, 2003). Every issue of the journal focuses on one recent film in particular in the rubric KF Premieres, with a lengthy review supplemented by interviews with the director or actor (for example, Kyrgyz director Aktan Abdykalykov's trilogy in 1, 2002; Ukrainian director Sergei Masloboishchikov's Noise of the Wind in 2, 2002; Estonian director Arvo Ikho's Heart of the Bear in 4, 2002; Razykov's Comrade Boykenzhaev in 1, 2003; Kazakh directors Narymbetov's Leila's Prayer in 2, 2003 and Dzhamshet Usmonov's Angel on the Right in 1, 2004). This rubric is always followed by Film, Film, Film, which contains several reviews of recently released feature films, as well as overview articles on recent work in animation and documentary filmmaking. Info provides brief updates on important events within the national film industries, and each issue concludes with a Screenplay (including Ibragimbekov's Nomads in 2 and 3, 2002; Razykov's Comrade Boykenzhaev in 1, 2003; and Khodzhakuli Narliev's A Turkmen Ivan in 1, 2004).

Two rubrics in particular warrant special attention because they contain biographical overviews and historical details, as well as address theoretical questions. Each issue of the journal focuses on one specific individual, Persona, and provides several articles examining his or her importance and role in the film industry (Kyrgyz director Tolomush Okeev in 1, 2002; Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas in 2, 2002; Kyrgyz actor Bolot Beishenaliev in 3, 2003; Kira Muratova in 4, 2002; Georgian director El'dar Shengelaia in 1, 2003; Herz Frank in 2, 2003; Moldovan director Emil' Lotianu in 3, 2003; Tajik actor Takhir Sabirov in 4, 2003; and Klimov in 1, 2004). Finally, Concepts, Hypotheses, Research, is, simply put, a gold mine. In the first nine issues alone, this rubric has published Valerii Fomin's historical re-examinations of the Soviet film industry in Ukraine (1 and 2, 2002), Lithuania (3 and 4, 2002), and Georgia (2 and 3, 2003). Fomin's articles, like his monographs on the censorship of Soviet cinema during the Stagnation period are extremely polemical, but their major points are substantiated by transcripts or photocopies of official Party documents that have never before been published. The series has also contained a series of articles examining animation (Lukinykh in 1 and 2, 2002) and documentaries (Izvolova in 1, 2002; Andrei Shemiakin in 1, 2003 and 1, 2004), as well as on Central Asian cinema (Gul'nara Abikeeva in 1 and 3, 2002; 2, 2003; Seth Graham and Sergei Karavaev in 3, 2003; Gul'bara Tolomushova in 4, 2003 and 1, 2004), the cinema of Belarus (Igor' Sukmanov in 4, 2003), gender theory (Stishova in 2, 2003), and a number of major figures in the history of Soviet cinema (Elena Novikova on the 1920s actress Anna Sten in 1, 2003; Khama Mostfa on director Dinara Asanova in 2, 2003; Shemiakin on director Iulii Raizman in 3, 2003; Alla Bobkova on director Sergeo Paradzhanov in 4, 2003).

The Confederation of Unions of Filmmakers may well have been the birth-child of late Soviet imperialism, a product of "liberal-national" guilt in its search for a more egalitarian state socialism. But it has also emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union as the only formal organization of filmmakers from the former Soviet Union that has shown initiative in providing a venue for the film industries of the newly independent states to co-exist in a neutral and supportive space. If the roots of this "acorn" are suspect, its root structure supporting "national oaks" is not. The Confederation's sponsorship of KinoForum and KinoForum, of the visual and the verbal, can only be admired and praised.