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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Mia Öhman (University of Helsinki, Finland)

Sovexportfilm and the Case of Andrei Rublyov

After “malokartinye”, the low number of new films in the late Stalin-era, the Central Committee strongly supported “kinofikatsiya”, or improving possibilities to produce and watch films. As a result, in one decade Soviet cinema recovered and a new group of young talents with their fresh ideas entered in film industry. The end of the Khruschev era changed the course of cinema again strongly towards depicting communist ideals in the frame of social realism. Andrei Tarkovsky´s second full length film was proposed in Mosfilm already in 1962, shot in 1964–65, and screened first in 1966, after which it ended up on the “shelf”. The case of Andrei Rublyov is about the juxtaposition of ideology and artistic freedom of expression, with a seldom mentioned, but nevertheless important matter: money. Sovexportfilm was a Goskino department trading Soviet cinema abroad. It served under the command of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, with some help from the Ministry of Culture. Despite not willing to show the most intrigued films to the wide Soviet audience, the authorities were eager to earn western money. In the spring 1969, the Committee of Cinematography decided to sell the film Andrei Rublyov to France, and Sovexportfilm transported Tarkovsky´s much rumored film from behind the iron curtain to Cannes film festival. It was also seen in Paris theaters, while Moscow strongly protested. The USSR premiere was only in December 1971. Similar kind of double-faced action was seen in Soviet film business all through the 1970s and 80s. Even now, a kind of confusing double code exists: why does Russian Federation arrange money for certain film productions, when stories told in the films are questioning the actions of the administration? Maybe in Russia, it´s ok to bite the hand that feeds you?