UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


A conversation with Catriona Kelly

13 December 2021, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm


A Russian Cinema Research Group seminar with Professor Catriona Kelly, convened by Philip Cavendish and Rachel Morley

This event is free.

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Please join us for a conversation with Catriona Kelly (University of Cambridge) about her recent book Soviet Art House: Lenfilm Studio under Brezhnev (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021)

Lenfilm was one of the Soviet Union’s largest studios. Producing around thirty feature films per year, the Leningrad studio had over three thousand employees working in every area of film production. Soviet filmmakers often had to face great obstacles as they struggled to make art in an authoritarian society that not only put them under ideological pressure but also imposed rigid economic constraints on the industry. But while the Brezhnev era of Soviet filmmaking is often depicted as a period of great repression, the films made at the prestigious Lenfilm studio in this period were far more imaginative than is sometimes assumed. In the words of Peter Bagrov, curator in charge of the Moving Image Department at the George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York: ‘In the years of Stagnation, Lenfilm studio was one of the symbols of artistic freedom in the USSR – with reservations, of course.’

In this pioneering study of a Soviet film studio, which covers the period from 1961 to the collapse of centralised state facilities in 1986, Catriona Kelly delves into previously unpublished archival documents and interviews, memoirs, and the films themselves to illuminate the ideological, economic, and aesthetic dimensions of filmmaking at Lenfilm in the Brezhnev era. She argues that especially the young filmmakers who joined the studio after its restructuring in 1961 revitalised its output and helped establish Leningrad as a leading centre of oppositional art. The book’s unique insight into Soviet film production not only shows the inner workings of Soviet institutions before the system collapsed but also traces how filmmakers tirelessly dodged and negotiated contradictory demands to create sophisticated and highly original movies.

Join us to learn more!

Image credit: Soundstage at Lenfilm