ARTMargins Online Blog

Touring Moscow's Art House Cinemas

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

On a research trip to Moscow earlier this fall, excursions to the city's art house cinemas were my incentive for spending hours in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Along with pausing work on my dissertation and temporally setting aside the stress that comes with it, I wanted to see where Muscovites with a discerning eye for film get their fix. After Google.ru provided several suggestions, I went in search of these movie houses, trying to get a sense of what defines art house cinemas in Moscow. Such theaters in the United States stand out by the type of films they show and the particular atmosphere they offer audiences. For instance, Landmark Theaters describes itself as the "recognized leader in the industry for providing to its customers consistently diverse and entertaining film products in a sophisticated adult-oriented atmosphere," emphasizing the variety of films this company exhibits, their difference from mainstream Hollywood spectacles, and the experience of high-culture pretenses (http://www.landmarktheatres.com). In contemporary Russian film culture, art house cinemas appear to follow a similar model. These venues are not only defined by the films they screen, but also by their relationship to the megaplex theaters.

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Czech That Film — Czech Cinematography Festival in Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, June 9 - July 3, 2013

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

What beyond language gives films a national quality? As the cinemas of Eastern and Central Europe seek to promote themselves abroad, solely appealing to the singularity of each nation no longer looks to be enough. More than cultural idiosyncrasies, it seems these cinemas have to claim stakes in the production of new film movements. Over the course of four weeks in June 2013, the Czech That Film festival promoted the output of modern Czech cinema at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center. The eight films screened in Chicago were selections from a larger repertoire, which toured ten American cities from April to August 2013. These films might represent images and narratives shaped by Czech culture, but they should not be viewed anthropologically for signs of a supposed Czech psyche or national character. Nor should audiences expect uniform narrative interests or aesthetics. By virtue of narratives that ranged from suspenseful dramas to coming-of-age stories and romantic comedies, variously set in the present-day or during Communist times (1948-1989), and through a mix of minimalist and stylized aesthetics, the films shown in Chicago truly represented a range of styles and genres. Instead of considering their national identity, the projection of these films and the festival itself should be considered within the context of global film distribution and promotion.

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GeoAir Project “Undergo. The Parallels.”

Written by Tamta-Tamara Shavgulidze

Event which took place in 2012 from the 24th of May till the 3rd of June, in Tbilisi, Georgia seems worthy to write about it. Event was dedicated to public space and to the attempt to shift the understanding of public sphere in Georgia. In spite of the fact, that the event took place several months ago, I would like to emphasize on its meaning for Georgians, who mentally are still the part of Soviet public space. The understanding of public space itself comes for us from Soviet times. Because totalitarian government used public space as the place of ideological icons placement (architectural monuments, monumental sculpture, recreation zones etc.), citizens of Soviet countries never thought themselves as the meaningful person involved in public space. Citizen's ability to contribute in urban, public space as the bearer of different cultural code and the experience sharing process between the city and the citizen has been cancelled. Because of Soviet politics of constructing public space the society became closed, structured and shaped under ideological model.

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Back to the Future: Recent Trends in the Cinemas of Hungary and Romania

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

Late last year, a concerted effort was mounted at the Sixth Annual Making Waves, A Festival of New Romanian Cinema, which took place at New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, from November 29th to December 5th, to shed light on some depressing changes affecting film production in Romania and Hungary. These changes can be summed up as a drive to again reign-in cultural production under the thumb of government. Prior to the festival, articles in New York Times and the Wall Street Journal had alerted readers to the shake up inside the Romanian Cultural Institute. After the coalition government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta came to power in spring 2012, it issued an emergency ordinance, which reorganized the Romanian Cultural Institute (Institutul Cultural Român, from here on the ICR) and altered its emphasis from "making Romanian culture better known abroad" to "preserving and perpetuating" the national identity of Romanians living abroad. The new policy was meant to put the ICR under tighter political control of Romania's Senate. Dubious claims of accounting irregularities and complaints about the negative impact of the previous policy on the "feeling of belonging to the Romanian nation" for those living abroad were asserted as the motivations for the emergency ordinance.  

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