Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead.
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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Tovarisch Shortlisted for Grierson Award

I am pleased to announce that Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead is on today’s shortlist of 8 titles for the Grierson, Britain's top theatrical documentary prize, competing for the UK Film Council Best Cinema Documentary award against not only UK but international films, of which 3 are Oscar winner/nominees and one a Sundance award winner - but you never know...

View the Grierson Trust website

Monday, 21 April 2008

Tovarisch, I Am Censored

Some 55 years after the demise of Stalin, and 17 years after the fall of communism, it seems that the Gulag and the KGB are still hot potatoes.

A major satellite TV group called Viasat Broadcasting
was about to buy this film for Pay TV in 33 countries, including all the former communist territories that comprised the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and former Yugoslavia. At the very closing stage of 5 months of negotiation on 18th March 2008 I got this last minute email from Acquisitions.Manager Vicky Watts:

“I’m unfortunately no longer in a position to move forward with the deal offer. We have concerns about the sensitivity of the title in Russia. The current climate and viewership in Russia is that our Compliance department are having to monitor very closely the programmes we would like for the channel. The decision has been made that this is unfortunately not going to sit comfortably with us, in view of the territories we broadcast in.

I am really sorry that this has only come to light at this time, but all titles are subject to the approval of both our Programming and Compliance teams.

Kind regards,

This broadcasting group is based in Scandinavia. It seems that even in the liberal Nordic environs of the Arctic Circle, west of my father was imprisoned, business takes precedence over survivors recounting how their human rights were robbed six decades ago.

Interestingly, this squares with cultural policies whereby I understand that state-sponsored film festivals dare not show a film such as this in Russia. My co-producer and editor, Emily Harris, was even told in St Petersburg by a somewhat shamefaced festival programmer that they had been told to steer clear of this kind of material. Only the Stalker Film Festival in Moscow, a human rights event independent of the government, has shown this apparently controversial movie!

We knew about the terror applied to critics of the current regime such as Litvinenko and Politkovskaya. It seems that even the past is taboo. The dead hand of Stalin rests on the Kremlin, and woe betide any Western business entities that ignore that fact.

If anyone can has any helpful comments, I would love to hear!

Monday, 14 April 2008


At the time of writing, Tovarisch has participated at some twenty or so international film festivals, picking up half a dozen awards and several nominations, including the British Independent Film Awards.

Below are a sample of 10 months of festival-hopping.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Punto de Vista - credit to Luis Dias

Although Pamplona is slightly better know for its running bulls than its cutting edge new documentary festival, I call upon everyone who loves animals to flock to the city for the film event and thereby save the lives of those frightened beasts who are sacrificed each summer (and the odd drunken tourist whom they gore now and then). Hopefully we can make the Pamplona film run the hot ticket event.

Dana and I had a lovely sojourn during this impeccably-managed event in the old city. I was touched, and should not have been surprised as a historian, by the fact that Spanish and Basque people take to the film because they know all too well the horrible legacy of totalitarian terror in the last century in their civil war and Franco’s repression. I guess this is why the film won the Audience Award (Premio del Publico)

This town has almost no Jewish population, but in another moving moment, two middle-aged Jewish brothers come over after the show.Their father only survived the war by an irony – a volunteer for the Republican forces from France, he was incarcerated by the Fascists in a Spanish prison camp, thus surviving the war. Franco did not send Jews back to the Nazis, unlike the occupied French.

Find out more about the festival

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Stuart & Yehuda Efroni at Tel Aviv Cinematheque

To Jerusalem for the film’s premiere in Israel and my wife Dana’s 50th birthday party, with close family in attendance. A heady mixture in the Holy City! It turns out to be one of the best and rewarding weeks I can ever remember, including a couple of days off at the Dead Sea and a standing room only showing of the film at the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque attended by 450 people. What matters most to me is that my uncle Menachem is with us, 81 and still playing tennis, 60 years after being gravely wounded defending a besieged enclave in Jerusalem.

Upon arriving in Israel, we are whisked through formalities by a culture ministry official and greeted also by a major article in The Jerusalem Post

Actors Topol and Yehuda Efroni help celebrate the film at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque with great pzazz, as they both knew Garri. Topol lights the candles for the hannukah festival on stage and sings in his famous voice, then making a speech before the film. My cousin Chasia also gives invaluable support in assuring this amazing turnout and catering.

Topol before the show with me

What makes touring with this film so special is the following event: an elderly but sprightly man comes out of the crowd. Zvi Halpern, an artist and veteran kibbutznik, explains that as a boy he escaped on the last day of the liquidation of the ghetto in the town that he and my father came from. Joining the partisans, he survived the war, and just like my uncle Menachem from the same town, got to Palestine and joined the Palmach (Jewish special forces).

Stuart & Menachem

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