Larisa Shepitko

LARISSA SHEPITKO (01 06 1938-06.02.1979)



7.00pm - HEAT
Larissa Shepitko (1963) 85 mins

Influenced by her mentor, the Russian master Alexander Dovzhenko, Shepitko’s first film is a curious mix of Soviet political drama & inter-class conflict (culminating in an almost western-like showdown climax). Despite it being the young director’s diploma film & the punishing nature of its production (she had to direct from a stretcher after falling immensely ill due to the extreme climate), it received numerous awards at international festivals.









In commemoration of the jubilee of the film director Larissa Shepitko the exhibition is opened in the Mosfilm Cinema Concern Main building. On January 6, 2008 Larissa Efimovna would be seventy…

Larissa Shepitko was born in the Ukrainian town of Artyomovsk in 1938, however she began working as a film director in Kirghizfilm studio where in 1962 she staged the film Heat based on the story Camel’s Eye by Ch.Aitmatov; this film gained several prizes of prestigious festivals including the prize of the 1-st Leningrad All-Union Film Festival for the best film director work. Soon after this event Larissa Shepitko graduated from the department of the All-Union Cinematography Institute for training of film directors (workshop of A.Dovzhenko and M.Chiaureli) and in 1962 she began working as a film director in the Mosfilm cinema studio. In Mosfilm L.Shepitko made films: The Wings, The Native Land of Electricity, You and Me, Ascent. The Wings is the story of the former military woman-pilot who could not be settled in quiet life till her last day (Maya Bulgakova acted this part splendidly). The Native Land of Electricity is a short-length screen version of the short story of the same name by Andrey Platonov released on screens only twenty years after. You and Me is the film about talented scholars betraying their vocation almost insensibly for themselves; the film was awarded with Silver prize in the 33-d Venice Film Festival in the Venice-Youth nomination. The pathetic film Ascent was shot after the story Sotnikov by V.Bykov; it opened the door in cinema for actors-debutants B.Plotnikov and V.Gostyukhin; it won Golden Bear prize in the 27-th West Berlin Film Festival as well as a number of other prizes and rewards. Then Larissa Shepitko began working on the next film, a screen version of the story Farewell with Matyoraya by V.Rasputin; on July 2, 1979 she started for shootings and perished in the auto accident together with the camera man V.Chukhnov, the art designer Yu.Fomenko and their assistants. The last idea by L.Shepitko was realized by her husband Elem Klimov, and Farewell was released on screens in 1982. Two years before Elem Klimov made the documentary film Larissa using fragments of films by Larissa Shepitko and recollections of people worked with her.

In the exposition presented by the Mosfilm-Info in memory of Larissa Shepitko Mosfilm workers and guests can see stills from her films and photographs of shooting moments.

Films by Larissa Shepitko:

1962 – Heat (after the story Camel’s Eye by Ch.Aitmatov)
1966 – TheWings
1967 – The Native Land of Electricity (short-length film after the short story of the same name by Andrey Platonov — the film director and script author)
1968 – In the Small Night (musical television film)
1971 – You and Me (the film director and script author)
1976 – The Ascent (after the story Sotnikov by V.Bykov — the film director and script author)

Alexandra Tarasova
Translated by L.Erashova

15.01.2008 01:00:00


The Saga of Chengiz Aytmatov -RON

From the 4th Eurasia International Film Festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan

When Chingiz Aytmatov went onstage in the spacious Palace of the Republic in Almaty at the closing gala of the 4th Eurasia International Film Festival (23-29 September 2007) to receive an honorary award from the Kazakh government, he was greeted with a standing ovation. And, indeed, the applause was well deserved.

For the 78-year-old Kyrgys writer-diplomat is revered throughout Central Asia not only as a gifted storyteller whose heartrending novella Jamila (published in 1958) was praised by Louis Aragon as “the world’s most beautiful love story,” but also as the first Kyrgys Ambassador to Luxembourg and the European Union in Brussels.

Moreover, during the high-water mark of the Khrushchev “thaw” (1956-65), when Chengiz Aytmatov was appointed head of the Kyrgyzfilm Studio in Frunze (today Biskek), he fostered there a path-breaking “director’s cinema” that helped revolutionize Soviet cinematography altogether.

How Chengiz Aytmatov accomplished this rather extraordinary feat still boggles the imagination today. But for the newly appointed studio head, it simply meant sustaining a fading nomadic culture while fostering a native film tradition.

The story goes like this.

Upon receiving the 1963 Lenin Prize for Literature for his Tales of the Mountains and the Steppes, and backed by a film studio ready and willing to do his bidding, Chengiz Aytmatov had invited a talented 22-year-old student from the Moscow Film School (VGIK) to direct the studio’s first film production.

Larisa Shepitko had sent him a script based on his own “Camel’s Eye” story in the Tales of the Mountains and the Steppes collection. Aytmatov liked it and invited her to shoot the film on actual locations in Kyrgyzstan. Upon completion, her Heat (1963) seemed assured of instant success with the Central Asian public by the very fact that this was the first production of its kind. But it hardly sat well with the Soviet censors in Moscow for any number of reasons. Aytmatov, however, as the film’s responsible producer, had held a hidden card up his sleeve.

Recognizing that Heat had challenged the then-sacrosanct principles of socialist realism, he arranged for the film to be shown first at the 1963 Festival of Central Asian Films in Dushambe, the capital of neighboring Tajikistan. There, as expected, a release certificate was granted, and the film cleared for exhibition at least in the Central Asian republics, if not throughout the Soviet Union.

Recognition in Dushambe, in turn, encouraged Kirghizfilm to enter Heat in 1964 at the First All-Union Soviet Film Festival in Leningrad, where it was awarded the Prize for Best Direction. That same year, Heat was invited to the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where the film and Kyrgys cinema were each hailed as a phenomenon on the world film stage.

Following the success of Larisa Shepitko’s Heat at the Leningrad All-Union festival, Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky, her colleague at the Moscow Film School, also journeyed to Kyrgyzstan to direct his first feature film. And, of course, Konchalovsky’s The First Teacher (1964) was based on another Chengiz Aytmatov story, published under the same title in 1962.

When the film finally received Soviet permission to be screened at the 1966 Venice International Film Festival, Natalya Arinbasarova, in the role of the “first teacher,” was awarded the Volpi Prize for Best Actress. It was the second major Soviet film success at Venice, following a share of the Golden Lion awarded to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood in 1962.

Thus, although the Khrushchev “thaw” was finished, a core of “Young Soviet Directors” were to make the phrase a catchword at international film festivals — thanks to the foresight of writer-producer Chengiz Aytmatov.

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