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Daytime therapist, nighttime filmmaker captures Soviet life


Photo by Daniel Bases

He’s a physiotherapist by day and a filmmaker by nights, weekends and everything in between. Semyon Pinkhasov has captured facets of Soviet life that rarely get shared beyond Russia’s borders, even after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

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The self-taught, self-financed, award-winning amateur documentary filmmaker has seen his films shown worldwide at festivals and on Russian and English-language television channels. Focused on the arts and the sport of fencing (U.S. Olympic Team Coach in 1984), he tells stories about Grigory Fried, who has run a music appreciation club in Moscow for 45 years without taking a kopeck; Tikhon Khrennikov, the first and last secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers; and Boris Efimov, perhaps Stalin’s favorite cartoonist.

One film about German fencing legend Helene Meyer, whose half-Jewish heritage provided Adolf Hitler with political cover to stage the 1936 Olympics, won for best screenplay at the 2009 International Festival of Sports Films in Moscow. But what drives someone with no background in film, journalism or the arts to dive into movie making? Roll the video:

Photo: Documentary Filmmaker Semyon Pinkhasov is shown in his Manhattan apartment on June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Daniel Bases

Does Russian conductor risk Western ire?


gergiev.jpgRussian conductor Valery Gergiev has long been a darling of the West, and is currently serving as principal conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra. It will be fascinating to see whether, following his highly politicized decision to lead a performance of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich amid the damaged buildings of South Ossetia’s Tskhinvali this week, that popularity wavers.

The charismatic musician’s actions will appeal to many Russians, who blame Georgia for sparking the crisis in the Caucasus by seeking to re-take the breakaway enclave and for shelling the regional capital. By likening the attack to the 9/11 strikes on the United States, Gergiev only upped the stakes.