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THE COMMISSAR

USSR, 1967 (MIFF 1988)

Director: Alexander Askoldov

"Just over twenty years ago, Alexander Askoldov was preparing to take his film Komissar to the 1967 San Francisco Film Festival when his work was banned and the trip cancelled Last week Askoldov, 50, had an unprecedented triumph when his long-shelved production was suddenly and mysteriously shown to a cheering audience at the Moscow Film Festival

[The film itself isj a luminous poetic black and white production set in the early 1920s during the Russian Civil War between the Bolshevik Red and the Imperialist White armies With lyrical power, it dramatizes the changes that take place m a Valkynan Russian woman commissar who becomes pregnant She is released from her military duties m a small Ukraman village and housed with a poor Jewish couple who have six children It is the first Soviet film in more than 40 years to dramatize Jewish lives, hut no-one would say publicly that it was banned for that reason

”Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who was seeing the film for the third time, declared his belief that 'anti-semitism developed in the Soviet Union because we were forbidden such a film as this one After 20 years of being cruelly banned, it still preserves its artistic quality

'Following the screening, Askoldov told reporters that Komissar was his first and last film He was never allowed to work in a film studio again

'It is my dream , Askoldov said, 'that in America, people will see the place where they were born and understand that this is a memorial to their parents and to my father whose life was dedicated to the defense of those who needed help' ' - Judy Stone The San Francisco Chronicle, 18 June 1987

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