Cultural Landscape of Russia

Focus Series working in partnership with Schoolcraft
By Jackie Charniga
Editor In Chief
It is long overdue that the students of Schoolcraft experience the rich and elegant history of Russia, and how its trials and hardships crafted the imaginations of its artists. The country that brought us the great writers such as Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Ayn Rand has many heart wrenching and expressive stories to tell. Due to the consideration of Helen Ditouras, Jocelyn Moore, and colleagues at the International Institute, Focus Series brings to Schoolcraft this fall the depraved yet opulent historic landscape of Russia through various lectures and one of today’s most influential mediums: film.
On Sept. 16, the first film will be introduced and screened by Dr. Alec Thomson; entitled “The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner,” which will be presented in the Liberal Arts Building from 9:30 a.m.–11:30 am. This Russian production, filmed in 2008 under the title “Svetat e golyam i spasenie debne otvsyakade,” tells the story of Alex, who goes on a journey through the Russian landscape with his grandfather to search for his true self after a life-altering car accident.

On Oct. 2nd and 3rd there will be two lectures given by Dr. Daniel Yezbick; the first being “Symbols of Dissent, Fantasies of Freedom: Chaos and Catharsis in the Countercultural Cinema of Eastern Europe”. The following day he presents “Political Pictures: How Sequential Narratives and Provocative Panels Make Meaning Out of Time, Line, and Form”. The films contain information on one time Soviet nations such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the former Yugoslavia. The films depict how these nations have struggled for decades to create and define complex truths about politics, ethnicity, and human rights.
On Oct. 9, there is another film, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.” This drama is reserved for more adult audiences, as it contains mature content not suitable for all viewers. In the story, a young woman seeks an illegal abortion in 1980’s Romania.
The Focus Series presentations will conclude Nov. 21, with guest presenter Dr. Laura Kline’s demonstration, “Glorious Russia: A Cultural Overview.”
These lectures are extraordinary opportunities to learn about Russian culture, and provide an indispensable arena for gaining factual knowledge on a country to which students have little access. As well as lectures, several films that are little known to American audiences will provide a contrast not only on what Russian filmmakers chose to create versus American filmmakers, but also presenting viewers with a style, language, and landscape they may not be used to. Easily accessible and well presented, Focus Series is always a pleasurable experience through which to learn.