News: Bolshoi Babylon - in cinemas & online

Friday 8 January 2016 by Carmel Smith

Bolshoi Babylon, a documentary exploring the aftermath of the acid attack on the Bolshoi Ballet’s Artistic Director Sergei Filin in 2013, is released in the UK today. Catch it at the Curzon in Bloomsbury and Mayfair and selected Picturehouse cinemas in London – or watch online with – and also see fascinating interviews which didn’t make the final cut.

Co-directors Nick Read and Mark Franchetti were given access to film over the 2013-2014 season as the theatre brought in new leadership, charged with restoring its reputation.

The Bolshoi is described by a Russian commentator at the beginning of the film as a Russian brand: “Not many brands represent Russia. One is the Bolshoi Ballet, the other is the Kalashnikov [rifle]….The Bolshoi has such a sacred meaning for Russia because the art of ballet is closely connected with the Russian national character.”

Director Nick Read tells the Guardian
“We spent a lot of time trying to work out how precise a mirror it was of the political landscape…I’m still undecided. It’s intensely political and has been used as a pawn by the regime, but at the same time it’s a reality bubble. The walls are very thick.” Read the full article: Guardian, 27 December 15

The team had hundreds of hours of film from their time with the Bolshoi. Here is one interview, with Ludmilla Semenyaka, who was a prima ballerina with the company, which didn’t make the final cut:

UK reviews so far
“When I sat down to this disturbing film, I wondered if I was going to compare it to Darren Aronofsky’s ballet drama Black Swan (2010). Actually, I thought more of Michael Haneke’sThe Piano Teacher (2001), based on the Elfriede Jelinek novel, a shocking tale of dysfunction, showing that the discipline needed for classical music creates violence and pain as a hidden byproduct, like nuclear waste.” Peter Bradshaw, Guardian, 8 January 2016

“As dramatic as Black Swan, as funny as Horrible Bosses and as spryly intimate as The Red Shoes, this doc about Russia’s most famous dance company is hot stuff indeed. Ballet aficionados may deem it sordid to dwell on the 2013 acid attack that left Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi’s artistic director, blind in one eye. Yet the film never feels lurid.” Charlotte OSullivan Evening Standard, 8 January 2016

“The scenes of the ballet performances themselves, filmed from the wings, are magical. The dancers make very personable and frank interviewees, talking openly about the insecurity of their working lives – their rivalries, bitterness and thwarted ambition.” Geoffrey Macnab, Independent, 8 January 2016

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