I just got back from a weeklong adventure in Russia at the American Film Festival in Moscow… lots to write about. The best part of the trip was getting to spend time with the other filmmakers, there were only five documentaries in the lineup and all the filmmakers were in attendance. D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus were there for a retrospective of their work, and a premiere screening of Pennebaker’s never-before-seen 1959 documentary Opening in Moscow, about the American Exhibition in Moscow that year.
The films were great, the screenings were packed (they added a third screening of Helvetica after two sell-outs), the malls were enormous, the subway was ancient (but surprisingly efficient), and the design students looked just like the design students in every other city in the world (why is that???). I took lots of photos, here are a few:
Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker film the Moscow streets
Students at the design academy crowd around my laptop to watch film clips
Cyrillic lettering = revolution! “Rise up, nanny, throw off your chains!”
Doug Block (51 Birch Street) gets a sample at the honey market
Annie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback) on the cold war-era Metro
Obligatory cathedral pic
Doug Block, documentary curator Robin Hessman, me, Bryan Gunnar Cole (Day Zero)
It was really interesting to see Moscow in transition, continuing to embrace rampant Western-style capitalism, and rushing to replace its Soviet-era architecture with 10-story shopping malls. If you can shop at Paul Smith, or Levi’s, or Hugo Boss, or buy a new BMW, do you still really need democracy?
Special thanks to Robin, Susan, and everyone at the festival for the opportunity to be part of the event, and for being such amazing hosts. And thanks to all the people I met in Moscow, and to James, Sanwaree, Catherine, and Micha, cheers!