About the Film
Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.
Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as "one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art" and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions, a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.
Director, Producer, Writer
Director, Producer, Writer, Editor
He directed together with Dana Berry for National Geographic Finding the Next Earth and edited Alien Earths, nominated for a Prime Time Emmy. He was one of the editors on the documentaries We Live in Public (Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) and One Lucky Elephant (Best Doc Editing Award at Woodstock Film Festival) as well as the narrative feature Bastards (MTV Russia Best Film Award). He edited Divining the Human: The Cathedral Tapestries of John Nava, narrated by Edward James Olmos, Marion´s Triumph, narrated by Debra Messing and View from a Grain of Sand (nominated for an IDA award) - all of which premiered on PBS. He was also an editor on the award-winning documentaries Refusenik, Maybe Baby and Holy Warriors. He is currently editing the documentary Valentine Road for Bunim Murray Productions.
He produced the feature thriller Nevsky Prospect for Amazon Studios (a division of Amazon.com) and field produced USA Network’s Covert Affairs “Horse to Water” episode. His field producing credits also include projects for History Channel, Simon Wiesenthal Center, SF1 (Switzerland), Channel 1 and MTV (Russia). He has produced commercials for Adobe, Cisco, NASA and TELE2 Mobile Europe and edited for Honda, Oscar de la Renta, Rooms to Go, TELE2 and MTV Russia. He also directed and produced a permanent multi-media installation on Perestroika for the Museum of Russian Jewish Tolerance in Moscow (the largest Jewish one in Europe).
Tchavdar was awarded an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago.
We have both been drawn to stories about stubborn, unsung people with vision who challenge the boundaries of their times. We first met as professor and student at University of Southern California's film school. Our partnership on equal footing across generations might have seemed unlikely. But we complimented each other perfectly. Having grown up in the former USSR, Tchavdar had his roots in Eastern European and Russian culture, while Amanda's strength came from a background in teaching and making documentary films on art and the dynamics of creativity.
What we discovered in the stories surrounding the Savitsky Collection, was a constellation of indomitable idealists. First there were the artists like Yevgeny Lysenko whose blue bull painting Fascism Is Advancing was labeled anti-Soviet. His creativity landed him in a mental hospital. There was the original Collector who defied a totalitarian regime and amassed 40,000 artworks for his museum often by giving IOU's promising payment in 10 or 12 years. And finally we met the current Museum director, Marinika Babanzarova, who has fought off government bureaucrats and art sharks as they tried to raid the prizes of the Collection, and Islamic fundamentalists ready to destroy the art just as they did the great Bamiyan sculptures in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, due to political and economic conditions in Central Asia today, the Savitsky Collection could cease to exist in its present form at any time. We hope this film will function as an advocacy tool and a catalyst to protect this unique 20th century cultural institution.
Amanda Pope & Tchavdar Georgiev
The museum represents the life's work of Igor Savitsky.
Igor Savitsky, Founder
Thereafter, he began collecting the works of Central Asian artists, including Alexander Volkov, Ural Tansykbayev and Victor Ufimtsev of the Uzbek school, and later those of the Russian avant-garde — including Kliment Redko, Lyubov Popova, Mukhina, Ivan Koudriachov and Robert Falk — whose paintings, although already recognized in Western Europe (especially in France), had been banned in the Soviet Union during Stalin's rule and through the 1960s.
Despite the risk of being denounced as an "enemy of the people", Savitsky sought out proscribed painters and their heirs to collect, archive and display their works; and, with great courage, he managed to assemble thousands of Russian avant-garde and post avant-garde paintings. Moreover, refuting the Socialist Realism school, the collection shook the foundations of that period of art history.
It was not until perestroika in 1985—the year after he died — that Savitsky's remarkable achievements and collections were truly acknowledged, and not until 1991 — when Uzbekistan became independent — that Nukus, a remote 'closed' city during the Soviet Union, became accessible to the outside world.
Marinika Babanazorova - Director and Curator
Friends of Nukus Museum
WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY Amanda Pope Tchavdar Georgiev IGOR SAVITSKY'S VOICE BY Ben Kingsley ARTISTS' VOICES BY Sally Field Ed Asner Igor Paramonov EDITED BY Tchavdar Georgiev SCORE COMPOSED AND PRODUCED BY Miriam Cutler CINEMATOGRAPHY Alexander Dolgin Gennadi Balitski ASSOCIATE PRODUCER AND RESEARCHER Etery Sakontikova RESEARCHER Ekaterina Sakontikova SOUND RECORDIST Adam King SOUND DESIGN BY Joe Dzuban Raj Patil SOUND RE-RECORDING MIXER Joe Dzuban TITLE & MOTION GRAPHICDESIGN BY inMotion Studios PRODUCER Stephen Fromkin DESIGNER & ANIMATOR Harold De Jesus ANIMATOR Marcel Valcarce COLORIST Brian Hutchings DIGITAL CONSULTANT Matt Radecki STORY CONSULTANTs Miriam Cutler Lisa Leeman Kate Amend Mark Harris INDEPENDENT FILM CONSULTANT Robert Hawk ADDITIONAL CINEMATOGRAPHY John Ealer Chad Wilson Clay Westervelt Daniel Pfisterer Erick Green ADDITIONAL GAFFER Jim Andre Emily Topper ADDITIONAL SOUND Valery Ermakov Gentry Smith TRANSLATORS AND TRANSCRIBERS Yuliya Volkhonovych Dimitriy Barabanov Adele de Ruocco Katya Kudriavtseva Oleg Minin John Narins Elena Vassilieva Yvonee Foong Cabell Smith Stephanie Young PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Jason Barbagelott Paolo Borraccetti Andrejs Kovalovs ASSISTANT EDITORS Andrejs Kovalovs Yasmin Assemi Justin Kelley Matt Rittorno ADDITIONAL GRAPHICS Andrejs Kovalovs ARCHIVAL STILLS ENHANCEMENT Alexander Dolgin PRODUCTION STILLS Ernest Kurtveliev THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO APPEAR IN THE FILM: Marinika Babanazarova Olga Belenikina John Bowlt Sergei and Alla Efuni Lidia Iovleva Kalibek Kamalov Alexei Kandinsky Stephen Kinzer Irina Korovay Jildasbek Kuttimuratov Andrei Sarabianov Alvina Schpade Alexander Tereshenko Lubov Truskova Alexander Volkov Maria Volkov Valery Volkov Militza Zemskaya AND THANKS TO THOSE WHO GENEROUSLY PARTICIPATED, BUT ARE NOT IN THE FINAL FILM: Natalia Adaskina Dinara Babanazarova Nazira Babanazarova Sergei Khrushchev David Pearce Nancy Perloff Aigul Pirnazarova Irina Pronina Damir Ruzibaev Elizabeth Sanasarian Alexandra Shatskikh Valentina Sychova Svetlana Turutina Andrei Volkov Vadim Yagodin PAINTINGS, ARCHIVAL FILM & PHOTOGRAPHS AP Archive Archive of the Repressed Victims of the former Soviet Union in Uzbekistan Corbismotion Getty Images Max Penson Collection, courtesy of Maxime Penson Mosfilm Cinema Concern Museum of the People of the East Russian Archive of Documentary Films & Photographs Russian State Archive of Literature and Art Smithsonian Institution The State Russian Museum The State Tretyakov Gallery The Wende Museum Ural Tansykbaev Memorial Museum Uzteleradio Volkov and Rybnikov families Marc Chagall, "The Soldier Drinks" courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, by gift Paul Gauguin, "In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse" courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser Paul Gauguin, "Self-Portrait" courtesy of Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France, Photo Credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY Paul Gauguin, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Tompkins Collection — Arthur Gordon Thompkins Fund Vincent van Gogh, "Landscape with Snow" courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Hilde Thannhauser Natalia Goncharova, "Harvest" courtesy of the Omsk District Museum of Visual Arts, Russia Natalia Goncharova,"St. Michael the Archistrategus" from her series 'Mystical Images of War' courtesy of the Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA Wassily Kandinsky, "All Saints" courtesy of the Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany Mark Y. Kaplan, "V.I. Lenin in 1917" courtesy of The Wende Museum, Los Angeles, CA Mikhail A. Kostin, "In the Stalin Factory" courtesy, Friend of the Springville Museum of Art, Springville, Utah Georges Seurat, "The Morning Walk" courtesy of The National Gallery, London/Art Resource, NY Alexander N. Volkov, "Hoeing of the Field," State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg ALL ARTWORKS NOT OTHERWISE CREDITED COME FROM THE SAVITSKY COLLECTION AT THE KARAKALPAKSTAN STATE ART MUSEUM MUSIC CREDITS Yussi - balalaika, mandolaika, octave mandolin, mandolin Yuval Ron - cumbus, saz, oud Stephanie Bennett - harp Charlie Adelphia - ney, duduk, various ethnic flutes, tsorna Max Baxter - woodwinds, saxes Nicholas Ariondo - accordion (courtesy ACCO-Music) Louis Durra - piano Carl Sealove - bass Paso Doble - strings MB Gordy - dhol, doyra, tombek, dumbek, phase shakers, riq, spanish tambourine, daf Score Orchestrated by Desha Dunnahoe Score Recorded and Mixed by Les Brockmann "Soky Nomay Bayat/Ufary Bayst" and "Rohat (Pleasure)" field recordings by Deben Bhattacharya, taken from the album "The Music of Uzbekistan" EUCD 1805 Courtesy of ARC Music Productions International Ltd. EQUIPMENT Alternative Rentals Coffey Sound Constant Change Picture Vehicles Edgewise Media Hollywood Bob's Movie Cars Ragtime Rentals USC SCA Wooden Nickel PROPS Art Wave Stalin Painting & Russian license plate — Philip Jones Textiles courtesy of Cheri Hunter (Textiles shown in this film were lawfully obtained outside Uzbekistan.) The Wende Museum Warner Brothers Studios Property Dept USC Roski School of Art ACCOUNTING Larry Ganzer, Stephanie Truex (The Allegent Group) POST PRODUCTION SERVICES Silhouette Films Different by Design ADDITIONAL POST PRODUCTION SERVICES VPTV England Todd-AO West Bruce Hanifan Productions Disney Studios USC School of Cinematic Arts Advanced Digital Services, Inc. MG Digital NON-PROFIT PARTNER International Documentary Association SPECIAL THANKS Jonathan Ahdout Konstantin Akinsha Steve Albrezzi Robert Alderette Jan Aldrin Chris Andrews Erik Bertellotti Mitchell Block Lisa Blok Doug Blush Fritzie Brown Ann Burchell Chris Cain Chris Callister Sung Rok Choi Don and Marilyn Conlan Midge Costin Ian Crozier Roozbah Dadvand Dean Elizabeth Daley Carole Dean A.J. Dickerson Richard Dion Alicia Dwyer Dave Florek Eric Furie Elena Gasparova Beata, Boris, Arielle Georgiev Bella, Georgi & Emil Georgiev Yana Gorskaya Greg & Kathy Guroff Philip Jones Amy Halpin Bruce Hanifan A.A. Dr. Hathout Silke Hilger Fiona Hill Darrin Holender Selma Holo Richard Hyland Judy Irola Candice Jacobs Justin Jampol Ludmila Kan Andy Kay Zubeida Khan Naim Karimov Ed Kasinec Gail Kearns Susan Kechekian Marsha Kinder Mark Konecny Yelena Kravtsova Roger Lane Greg Lanesey Eugene Lazarev Ari Levinson Phil Linson Sally Long-Innes Jason Martinez Heidi McCormack Bob McRae Murad Megalli Tom Miller Trevor Norris Carlos Ortega Penny Paine David Pearce German Pinchevsky Zazi Pope & Jack Cairl Hon. Joseph Presel Yelena Rachitsky Ruth Rauch Thomas Roberdeau Elena Romanova Azade-Ayse Rorlich Sandra Ruch Stan Rosen Hon. Sodyq Safaev Elizabeth Sanasarian Carolyn See Marat Seidanov Simone Sheffield Roman and Yana Shukman Jerry Sicherman Michael Silton Cabell Smith & Einstein the dog Mary Smith Ann-Elizabeth Sobieski Marcelo Sotenberg Nick Spark Alan Starbuck Susan Steiner Jane Stewart Tokhir Sultanov David Tlapek John Tower Michael Trainor Robbie Tucker Greg Vannoy Joe Wallenstein Jennifer Warren Morrie Warshawski Rosamond Westmoreland Thomas Whiting Dick Wirth Monique Zavistovski FUNDING PROVIDED BY THE FOLLOWING FOUNDATIONS, INSTITUTIONS AND INDIVIDUALS: National Endowment for the Arts Open Society Institute SahanDaywi Foundation USC Zumberge Research Grant USC Provost's Distinguished Visitors Program USC School of Cinematic Arts Lois M. O'Brien M.D. Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation CEC Artslink Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity The Cynthia Lasker Foundation Sarah Carey Roy W. Dean Award Ellen Katzman Patricia Finkel Rosalie Kornblau WITH THANKS FOR THEIR GENEROUS SUPPORT Friends of the Nukus Museum 'Jahon' Information Agency at the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan Institute of Modern Russian Culture, USC Oak Park Public Library, Chicago The Eurasia Foundation The Foundation for International Arts and Education The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Karakalpakstan The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan The Savitsky Collection at the Karakalpakstan State Art Museum Women's Luncheon Group Igor Savitsky's words are based on his writings and recollections of those who knew him. Shot on location in Russia, Uzbekistan and the United States In memoriam of John Rauch and Svetlana Turutina