This summer, REEEC added some new films to our multimedia library. They range from Soviet classics to contemporary Academy Award nominees and winners from the region. All are available to check out for university faculty, K-12 teachers, and graduate students who are interested in incorporating cinematic and other multimedia materials into their courses and studies.
Battleship Potemkin (2-Disc Special Edition) : Soviet Union/Russia
A film by Sergei Eisenstein (1925, 69 min., B&W/Color, English intertitles/Russian intertitles with English subtitles)
Course Relevance: film history, classic film, Odessa, Russian Revolution
Synopsis: In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel’s officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre.
A film by Andrey Zvyagintsev (2014, 140 min., Color, Russian with English or French subtitles)
Course Relevance: Post-Soviet Russia, contemporary Russia, corruption
Synopsis: In a small coastal town in Russia lives an ordinary family: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), his wife Lilya, and their teenage son Roma. The family is haunted by a local corrupt mayor who is trying to take away Kolya’s business, house, and precious land. Kolya calls in an old friend, now an authoritative attorney, for help. Together they fight back and collect dirt on the mayor, but fate does not seem to be on Kolya’s side.
Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Experimental Film Award (National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA), Grand Prize (IndieLisbon International Independent Film Festival), Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography (Cinema Eye Honors Awards)
Son of Saul: Hungary
A film by László Nemes (2015, 107 min., Color, Hungarian with French, Portuguese, Spanish, or English subtitles)
Course Relevance: Holocaust, Sonderkommando, Jewish life
Synopsis: October 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Saul (Géza Röhrig) is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis. While working, Saul discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. As the Sonderkommando plans a rebellion, Saul decides to carry out an impossible task: save the child’s body, find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and offer the boy a proper burial.
Awards: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Academy Awards), Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language (Golden Globes), Best Film not in the English Language (BAFTA Awards), Grand Prize of the Jury, FIPRESCI Prize (Cannes Film Festival)
A film by Pawel Pawilikowski (2013, 80 min., B&W, Polish, Latin, French with English or French subtitles)
Course Relevance: religion, Catholicism, Communism, postwar Poland, Jewish life, the Holocaust, women
Synopsis: 18-year old Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. Naive, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism.
Awards: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Academy Awards), Best Film not in the English Language (BAFTA Awards), Audience Award (European Film Awards), Grand Prix (Warsaw International Film Festival)
The Innocents: Poland
A film by Anne Fontaine (2016, 115 min., Color, French and Polish with English subtitles)
Course Relevance: postwar Poland, Communism, religion, Catholicism, pregnancy, women
Synopsis: Warsaw, December 1945: the second World War is finally over and French Red Cross doctor Mathilde (Lou de Laage) is treating the last of the French survivors of the German camps. When a panicked Benedictine nun appears at the clinic begging Mathilde to follow her back to the convent, what she finds there is shocking: a holy sister about to give birth and several more in advanced stages of pregnancy. A non-believer, Mathilde enters the sisters fiercely private world, dictated by the rituals of their order and the strict Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza, Ida). Fearing the shame of exposure, the hostility of the occupying Soviet troops and local Polish communists and while facing an unprecedented crisis of faith, the nuns increasingly turn to Mathilde as their beliefs and traditions clash with harsh realities.
Awards: Andreas Award (Norwegian International Film Festival), Audience Award (Provincetown International Film Festival), Best Film (Valladolid International Film Festival)
A film by Zaza Urushadze (2013, 87 min., Color, Estonian, Russian, Georgian with English subtitles)
Course Relevance: Abhaz-Georgian conflict, post-Soviet Georgia
Synopsis: A story of awakening humanity in the midst of violence, told with intimacy and elegance by writer/director Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines is the spare, yet haunting tale of an older Estonian man who cares for two wounded soldiers from opposite sides of the 1990s-era war in Georgia. The film reveals compassion to be the ultimate response to centuries of political, cultural and ethnic conflict, a compelling and relevant message for contemporary audiences.
Awards: Best Feature (Jerusalem Film Festival), Audience Award (Warsaw International Film Festival), nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Academy Awards), nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Golden Globes)
Synopsis: In this black satire flashing back to the 1950s Yugoslavia under Tito, when relations with the Soviet Union were broken off, a pro-Stalinist Iliya (Danilo Bata Stojkovic) and his brother have never wavered in their political support of the Soviet dictator and his policies. They both served prison terms back in the 1950s for their beliefs. Now nearly three decades have passed, and a new neighbor who has spent a long time in Paris comes under police suspicion because of his long years outside the country. It turns out, however, that the man is innocent of any wrong-doing but Iliya is convinced he is a spy for the forces of imperialism, and, armed with a tape-recorder and camera, he carries out a surreptitious, evidence-gathering surveillance. At the same time, Iliya is whipping up his neighbors into a real frenzy of anti-imperialist furor directed against the hapless neighbor. Before Iliya can be stopped, even his wife joins him, but his daughter is hardly a convert — embarrassed would be a better word. Humor and pathos rise along with the paranoia, as Iliya and his delusions rule the day.
Awards: Best Screenplay (Montreal World Film Festival), Best Actor (Pula Film Festival of Yugoslavian Films)
Please note that REEEC provides access to its collection free of charge to the following: University of Illinois faculty, graduate students, registered student organizations, K-12 instructors, and university/college faculty in the United States. First priority is given to University of Illinois faculty teaching Russian, East European, and Eurasian area studies courses. The collection is for educational purposes only. REEEC does not lend films to individuals for private viewing, and it does not lend materials outside the US.