With so much of the world's attention focused on the ongoing struggle in the Ukraine, it's an auspicious moment to (re-)discover the extraordinary but sadly often overlooked cinematic achievements of the nations formerly part of the so-called Soviet bloc. Although all financed by their communist governments, and made under the watchful eyes of censors, these works powerfully demonstrate not only the great cinematic creativity in the region but also the impressive courage of their filmmakers to challenge the tightly controlled images and narratives promoted by these regimes.
June 27 | ASHES AND DIAMONDS, 1958, Andrzej Wajda, Poland
On the last day of World War II, a right-wing militant is assigned to kill a local Communist leader. But when can his own life begin? Wajda's masterpiece was the surest sign that a new cinema was emerging in the Soviet bloc.
July 6 | FATHER, 1966, Istvan Szabo, Hungary
Growing up in the years spanning the end of the War, the Hungarian Revolution and the gradual opening of the Sixties, a young man tries to discover who the mythical father who he never knew really was. Clearly influenced by the French New Wave, Szabo alternates between tragedy and humor, fantasy and daily reality/
July 11 | DAISIES, 1966, Vera Chytilova, Czechoslovakia
Hailed as a feminist masterpiece, this surreal send-up follows two young women as they expose the daily hypocrisy of socialist society. Although popular with domestic and international audiences, the film was pulled off Czech screens, and Chytilova would rarely work until 1989.
July 12 | SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS, 1965, Sergei Paradjanov, USSR (Ukraine)
Based on a famous Ukrainian novel that follows a Romeo and Juliet romance between members of feuding families, Paradjanov's international breakthrough combines sumptuous color, lyrical folk music and extraordinary camera effects into a sumptuous, avant-garde work with overtones of a Marc Chagall-like rural fantastic. One of the greatest of all Soviet films.