27-29 September 2019
This full day screening programme celebrates the pioneering CentrNauchFilm (Centre of Scientific and Educational Film) by Vladimir Kobrin (1942–1999, Moscow) and features an extended introduction to Denis Shabaev‘s docufiction feature Mira (2018) by writer Owen Hatherly.
Khanzhonkov & Co. Scientific Department was established in the early 1900’s to produce educational and documentary films. Renamed CentrNauchFilm in 1967, the studio pioneered widescreen, stereophonic films and new cinematic technologies. Working within the studio, visionary film-maker Vladimir Kobrin produced educational films that comment on history, science and Russian society in the 1980s and 90s. Despite being commissioned by scientific societies his films transcend the documentary, offering seamlessly crafted essays that testify to Kobrin’s science-infused macabre.
Preceding on Saturday, This Is Not (a) Cinema premieres the work of SovPoliKadr studio (SovPolyFrame) by Alexander Shein (1933–2015, Moscow).
Organised with V–A–C Live, the performance led platform of V–A–C Foundation, founded in Moscow in 2009 for the production of new culture together with artists and audiences alike.
11.30 Welcome and introduction by Kirill Adibekov
The Science of Mechanics, 1981, 16’
The Subject Matter and Tasks of Biophysics, 1982, 10’
The Kinetics of Biological Processes, 1983, 20’
These three early works display an unconventional approach to instructional film. Kobrin’s use of animation and voiceover subvert the model common to other CentrNauchFilm productions. From mechanics to biophysics, the commentary explores the ethical and philosophical implications of science.
The Transport of Substance through the Biological Membranes, 1987, 20’
Elementary Photobiological Processes, 1988, 19’
Partially shot on location, the use of the ruins of a medieval castle in The Transport of Substances… is evocative of the film’s subject. It delivers a clear political statement condemning Mao, Hitler and Stalin as authoritarian rulers whose actions cause blockages of biological and societal systems.
13.30 LUNCH BREAK
Biopotentials, 1988, 28’
Self-Organization in Biological Systems, 1989, 20’
Kobrin’s analysis of Soviet society is full of idiosyncrasies, fears and contradictions. The commentary gives way to incorporeal voices
that overlay strange filmic constellations. In these final years of the Soviet Union, the end of a civilization is seen as an inevitable reality
rather than an artistic fantasy. Deserted landscapes, skeletons and found objects contribute to an overwhelming schizophasia.
1991=HERE AND NOW, 1991, 15’
The Last Dream of Anatoli Vasilievich, 1990, 45’
The subject of 1991 = HERE AND NOW is a half-criminal, half-monkey whose instincts are mostly survival-driven. Somewhere
between mimicking and mocking, this is a portrait of a country trying to ‘other’ itself. The protagonist of The Last Dream… could
be seen as embodying this notion, but the point is that Anatoli Vasilievich is everybody. With the country on the verge of collapse,
Kobrin abandons any attempt to comment. These dark last dreams offer an immersive experience of a no-hope transition.
16.50 Introduction by Owen Hatherley
17.10 Mira by Denis Shabaev, 2018, 80’
A former Soviet bloc soldier escapes his emigrant life in London and embarks on a journey to the self-proclaimed republic of Donbass, Eastern Ukraine. Finding his purpose in the restoration of monuments of Lenin, the film is a meditation on a modus vivendi that only exists in the collective imaginary. With a cast of barely fictional characters, Denis Shabaev delivers a bold and challenging contribution to post-truth documentary.
Kirill Adibekov is an independent distributor, film curator at V-A-C Foundation and Chevening scholar.
Owen Hatherley is the culture editor of Tribune and the author of several books, including The Chaplin Machine – Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant-Garde (Pluto Press, 2016), Landscapes of Communism (Penguin 2015) and The Adventures of Owen Hatherley in the Post-Soviet Space (Repeater, 2018).