Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead.
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Monday, 4 September 2006

An Interview With Stuart Urban

The director of Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead has agreed to answer any questions you may have for him.

Stuart Urban is a BAFTA winning director and son of Garri Urban, the man to whose memory this site is dedicated. Stuart is in a unique position to be able to answer any questions that you may have on his father's life, his own experiences of growing up in a family affected by the events of World War II or even on the process of turning his father's thoughts and feelings into a film - Please click on the 'Comments' tag at the base of this post if you have any questions for Stuart and we will do our best to get a video of his responses posted up on this site.

Latest Film News

We have just heard from Stuart Urban (the director of Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead) and the documentary is nearing completion - read on for a message direct from Stuart Urban!

Stuart Urban writes:

"We are coming towards the home straight on completing the documentary, Tovarisch I Am Not Dead, after only a mere 15 years or so in the making! Spread across that time and in several countries, I have been doing video diaries, research, interviews, archive investigations, consulting historians, tracking people down … and so much more, all in the cause of investigating one of the 20th Century's more remarkable survivors and escapers – my father. I have worked with superb collaborators on the artistic, organisational and investigational fronts, been arrested a couple of times in the former Soviet Union in the course of making the film by organs of state security, and been cheated of money by people who should have known better. Depending on what festival home the film first finds, we will announce further news as soon as it comes. We have no champions or powerful voices acting on behalf of the film but we hope its subject matter will speak for itself!”

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

How to use this weblog

I thought I would add a quick post to help you out if you are new to the World of Weblogs.

Its easiest to think of a weblog as a responsive Internet page - rather than logging onto the Internet and finding a static page of information a weblog is a living, breathing thing. Weblogs are written by real people who are interested and passionate about the subjects they write about, and weblogs are responsive - if you click on the Comments field under any of the posts you see on this page you can tell us what you think about the subjects we are discussing and share your views with other readers.

As well as the posts (written articles) you will find lists of useful information running down the side of the weblogs - these can include anything and everything and will be dependent upon the subject of the weblog you are viewing. You may find links to book, films, websites and even other weblogs - and if you click on one of the lists you will (nearly always!) be taken to a site that can tell you even more about the subject that you are interested in.

Feel free to read the posts on this site and, if you have the time, please talk to us! Let us know your thoughts and views and we will do our best to respond to you... keep coming back and you will see the weblog evolve to include your ideas.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.


Register With Our Site

If you would like further information on the upcoming documentary Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead, please feel free to register with us by sending your email address to

Once we have your contact details we will be able to keep you informed with news from Cyclops Vision (the films production company), updates about the film and information on available screenings etc.

You will also become eligible to win one of the prizes mentioned on the site - from signed books to memorabilia from the set of the film itself!

Update On Publishing Date For Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead

The new edition of the book Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead is now on sale and can be purchased from and Amazon.

A DVD of the documentary film will also be made available through the Cyclops Vision website in due course when it is complete and ready for distribution.

If you would like to receive information on either product please send your email address to One of the registered members of this site will receive a free copy of the book which will be signed and dedicated by Garri Urban's son Stuart, the Bafta-winning film-maker who is directing the story of Garri's life.

Thanks from The Film-Makers

While talking to Cyclops Vision, the guys behind the documentary Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead, it became clear that they have carried out an incredible amount of research on the conditions that Garri Urban and so many others suffered in Stalin's Gulags.

As well as drawing on Garri Urban's memoirs and the recordings made by his son Stuart during their exploration of Garri's past life, the documentary-makers consulted many specialists in the field of the Russian Gulags and the conditions suffered by so many in the Nazi concentration camps.

Principal among those that were consulted were Anne Applebaum and Sir Martin Gilbert.

Stuart Urban and Cyclops Vision were keen to pass on their thanks to Anne who is described as "a key participant in this documentary". Anne is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gulag: A History, which was published in April 2003.

The production team also wanted to pass on their thanks to Sir Martin Gilbert for his assistance with the documentary. Sir Martin is the author of The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy , which is considered to be a classic work on the subject from one of the leading historians of the modern world.

Monday, 21 August 2006

The World of Documentaries

Okay folks, you get to vote: I'm putting some links here to sources of information about documentary films. If you think they're useful, I'll put them on a Typelist and run them down the side of the page. If they're too vanilla, or you know them all already, they'll just sit here unwanted, unnoticed and unloved... waiting for someone to click on them.

The first lot come from Wikipedia's article on documentary films. It includes links to:

The Documentary Filmmakers Group

Documentary Educational Resources

Documentary Films.Net

International Documentary Association

Docuseek (with zero matches for the Gulag and 71 titles regarding the Holocaust)

Saturday, 5 August 2006

The Good Life

Hi, it's Tom. As one of the blogteam working on this website, I should say that I am fascinated by Tovarisch, I'm Not Dead on three levels.

First, the history of the time and place has awed me since I was a child. I remember reading/viewing Life's Picture History of World War II from cover to cover--and then starting again from page one. I was eight years old. From the Holocaust to the gulags, I have read books, watched movies, sat in front of the television, amazed at what man can do to man, and how man can adapt and overcome. From Primo Levi to Solzhenitsyn, from Schindler's List to Life is Beautiful, I have consumed all I could about these topics. I'm a gentile with no connection to any of it--I don't know why this was so important to me.

Second is my love of movie-making. I'm a wannabee, writing a blog about a movie in the making. I love this aspect of it, watching the project management, the process, watching creative people work. I want to capture it all. I want to watch this project move towards its stated goal--getting into prestigious film festivals, finding an audience, and then finding a way to get in front of that audience. I guess my big hope for this blog is that it helps Tovarisch get in front of all the people who would be touched and appreciative of what's inside.

But third, and maybe most important to me, is the fact that Garri Urban lived. He didn't just survive. He overcame his experiences and had a meaningful life. In this age where we can all label ourselves victims of something, what Garri Urban and so many other like him were able to do--move on--is especially relevant to me. I want to learn how he did it.

We Need Your Help

Did we get it right? Makers of documentaries have to ask the question. Tovarisch, I'm Not Dead covers incidents that happened 60 years ago. Many of those who could serve as technical consultants on this film have passed on, and those still with us are advanced in age.

But they may have talked to you. They might have given you a journal, diary or reconstruction written after the fact. You might have been there as a child, and you might retain vivid memories of the subject matter of this film.

If you have been to Yahoo! recently, you may have noticed that they now have a feature that allows you to ask questions on any topic, or provide answers. This feature is exploiting a phenomenon that was recently explored in a book called The Wisdom of Crowds. With more than 1 billion people using the Internet, it is almost certain that somebody, somewhere knows the answer to almost any question.

Crowd-sourcing is simply asking a group of people for help. We want to make sure that Tovarisch, I'm Not Dead is as accurate and realistic as is possible. Here on this website we will post footage, writing, interviews, audio and music that may be incorporated into the documentary. Quite simply, we want you to help us get it right. Use the Comments feature if you like. Email us if you want.

In the rest of this post (below), we'll talk about some of the issues regarding media--some of you might have photos or film footage that you think might make the film more effective. We'll talk about that.

It might be tempting to send us some photographs or offer to give us film footage from the period covered by our documentary Tovarisch, I'm Not Dead. We're equally tempted to ask you for it.

The problem is, who owns the copyright to the pictures and film that you want to submit? If you own it, it is yours to distribute as you will. But if someone gave it to you, or you found it in a basement somewhere... the problems begin to arise.

We cannot pay for additional pictures or film, which may dampen your enthusiasm somewhat. And, if we do include your material in the film, it may be used somewhere else--if excerpts of the film are shown on the telly or in a short version, it might include the material you sent us. That might dampen your enthusiasm further.

If, after all this cautionary language, you still think you have material that you think would help the film, we'd like you to contact us. If we agree that the material would help make Tovarisch, I'm Not Dead a better documentary, we will try to reach an agreement with you on how to use it and protect your rights to further usage of the material. We will probably try to use a version of the Creative Commons licensing scheme that will give us limited permission to use your material and leave you with the rights to use it thereafter. It's worth a try.

Tuesday, 25 July 2006

The director of Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead is also the Managing Director of the company behind the film... and he is Garri Urban's son.

Stuart Urban has worked in film all his life, having a film (The Virus Of War) screened at the Cannes Film Festival when he was just 13 years old. He continued to work in film and television, working on titles such as 'An Ungentlemanly Act' (a BAFTA winning BBC dramatisation of the first 36 hours of the Falklands war) and 'Our Friends In The North' and won another BAFTA for his drama directing.

In 1993 Stuart set up Cyclops Vision and has been producing and directing films ever since. In 1995 he wrote the film 'Deadly Voyage' which won the Sliver Nymph Award for Best Screenplay at Monte Carlo, and in 1997 he went on to write, produce and direct the cult comedy 'Preaching to the Perverted'.

In 1999 Cyclops produced 'Against the War' for the BBC. The documentary provoked a huge public reaction with hundreds of calls, letters and emails. Harold Pinter said, "I received more letters from the people in this country about that programme than I have ever received in my life about anything...they demonstrated the depth of shame of people in this country...and anger, and impotence, and frustration."

2001 saw the release of the mystical thriller 'Revelation', a film which follows the fight between light and darkness for an all powerful relic..... The struggle between light and dark continues in 'Dicing with Life' - a film that centres on the threat of genetic warfare - could it be that the threat genetic weapons is closer than we think? If you would like read the Dicing With Life weblog please click here.
As well as the more mainstream titles, Stuart Urban's work has contained a number of projects that focus directly upon events in the real world, events that echo in Stuart's own family history, from his earliest work 'The Virus Of War' to his most recent 'Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead'
I would be interested to hear your views on any of Stuart's films that you may have seen.....

Monday, 24 July 2006

Spread the Word

Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead is an independent film, produced by Cyclops Vision. Obviously, independent films don’t have big Hollywood budgets, nor do they have the vast studio marketing muscle behind them.... you won't be seeing wall to wall television adverts for Tovarisch anytime soon.....but these films, as well as being works of art, are an important part of our culture because they record the last eye witness testimony to the most monstrous events of the twentieth century and show exactly how the survivors were affected.
The team behind this film are hoping to enter Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead into numerous film festivals, ranging from stellar events such as The Sundance Film Festival to local film festivals, festivals concentrating on documentaries and festivals focused upon certain sections of society, such as the Jewish community or those with an interest in human rights and history. Should this happen the film will receive increased media attention and Garri's story will be made accessible to a much larger audience.... But how can you help?
Well, the more people that are aware of this film, the more chance that we have of having applications to all the major film festivals accepted.

We will do everything we can behind the scenes to promote the film, but if you are able to tell others about the film then that would be a great help.... and if you feel that you represent a specialist community or educational establishment and would like a screening of the film to be arranged please contact us HERE. Tell us who you are and why you would like to have the film shown - give us your contact details and we may be able to arrange it for you!

Please feel free to invite your friends and family to view this site for information about the film, and remember to keep your eyes on our updates for news on early screenings and cinema dates.... and if you have any good ideas for promoting the film then just drop us a line!

Many thanks.
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