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Russian Film Symposium

Representations of the emerging middle class are this year's focus


The Russian Film Symposium, now in its 15th year, continues through Sat., May 4.  The theme for this year's symposium, co-presented by the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, is "Re-Imagining Class: Recent Russian Cinema."

Symposium organizer Vladimir Padunov, an associate professor of Slavic language and literature at Pitt, says that the focus is on the emerging middle class and how it is misrepresented in contemporary cinema.

"There was basically a dictatorship of the proletariat [during] Soviet times," he says, followed by "a rule by the oligarchs through the '90s and early '00s. ... It was then with the advent of capitalism, banks and so on, that you've got the beginning of a new kind of class that hasn't been in Russia since before 1917 — a middle class."

It's a group, he explains, "that is growing in economic power, and in numbers, and yet at the same time, they can't quite figure out what to do with this group of people — that's the re-imagining part."

Don't look to current Russian cinema for accurate representations, Padunov cautions. "Most filmmakers, scriptwriters, directors of photography and actors in Russia belong to this middle class. And yet they're making films that consistently represent this middle class as living in a style that only the very wealthy could afford. What is that about, and and why is that happening?"

Film scholars and critics will be on hand to introduce the films and lead discussions. A selection of films screen during the day on the Pitt campus (Wed., May 1, through Fri., May 3, in David Lawrence Room 106; free), with four films picked for evening screenings at the Melwood Screening Room, in Oakland. These include the tale of a provincial woman taken in by a St. Petersburg ethnographer, Kokoko (7:30 p.m. Wed., May 1); a lavishly costumed fantasy about Death, Rita's Last Fairy Tale (7:30 p.m. Thu., May 2); the gritty, male mid-life melodrama Gromozeka (7:30 p.m. Fri., May 3); and the anthology of modern life Short Stories (7:30 p.m. Sat., May 4). 

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