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In this Calvert Journal piece, Sergey Novikov — Cheboksary, Chuvash Republic-born photographer who self-published FC Volga United, a photobook about football fans who live along Europe’s longest and largest river in terms of discharge and watershed, the Volga — sings on ode to Russia’s dying movie houses:
With more and more cinemas in Russia losing out to multiplexes — sometimes abandoned, sometimes used for discos and fairs or taken over by Jehovah’s Witnesses
Here is where Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson laments that Afghanistan’s once thriving cinema industry has not returned after 2011 ousting of the Taliban:
While in this 2012 article for Asahi Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, Kazuhisa Kurokawa announces the coming down of the curtain on a part of the cinema landscape of Tokyo “that first enraptured Japanese audiences just over a century ago.”
On Oct. 21, the lights went down in the last remaining three movie houses in Asakusa, a historic district just off the Sumida River where the nation’s first movie theater opened in 1903. The structures escaped the devastation of the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945 by U.S. bombers but were too old to be retrofitted to withstand a major earthquake. The theaters were operated by Chuei Co., a subsidiary of Shochiku Co.
Shochiku Co. produced films by Yasujirō Ozu, Takeshi Kitano, Akira Kurosawa and Taiwanese New Wave director Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
And as we decry the vanishing cinemas with history, we embrace all kinds of technology-packed movie houses. Here Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman takes us on a tour of a South Korea-stemming 4DX test cinema.. with Smell-o-Vision in Hollywood, California. Full package there: moving chairs, scent, smoke, and wind.
Throughout its 90-year history, the largest cinema in northern Europe, Oslo’s Kino, “has kept up with technological advances, from pioneering Cinemascope in the 1950s to the late-1990s THX-aimed overhaul.”
Chicago’s Uptown Theater is not that up-to-date. Once one of the largest in America, the Uptown “still stands at Broadway and Lawrence, its decaying interior like a mausoleum,” as late film criticism celebrity Roger Ebert put it.
This view of the Uptown Theatre’s auditorium mezzanine or loge seating area comes from Eric Holubow, photographer behind a cofee table book called Abandoned – America’s Vanishing Landscape.
Note the three colors of cove lighting and careful decoration of the plaster underneath the balcony and surrounding ventilation grilles. These atmospheric effects make one forget one’s troubles and that one is sitting under an immense balcony. The Uptown’s cove lighting system is controlled from a master lighting control panel on the stage. The lights were intended to help encapsulate the audience through the subtle use of changing colors. They could be preset and adjusted to fit the mood of what was being seen on the screen, watched in a live stageshow or heard from the organ and orchestra.
Down the road from the Estonian Cinema House on Uus Street, there is a spot called African Kitchen. (Photo: A. Kozlov)
A film studying Africa-Estonia issues
Estonian annimation sample
Estonian and Russian sign in Tallinn. Russian-speakers are ca. 20% of Estonia’s population. (Photo: A. Kozlov)
The Russian Theater of Estonia. (Photo A. Kozlov)
Ukrainian film-maker Sergey Volkov is showing Phillip Rojen (left) and Phil’s brother Andrey, of Feathered Dreams fame, how important balancing his Steady Arm is. Later the crew was filming scenes for their documentary about the Baltic German physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck on the streets of Tallinn’s Old Town, assisted by Russian-Estonian Royal Giraffe Theatre. (Photo A. Kozlov)
As the Baltic Pitching Forumdeadline is nearing, I go through the notes, photos and business cards that I brought from last week’s trip to Estonia, my first visit to the Baltics. Will it be long till I next walk the cobblestones of Tallinn’s Old Town, each step done carefully while trying to preserve the soles of my once brand new Portuguese shoes.
It was Erika Laansalu of the Estonian Filmmakers Union who shared with me and my Ukrainian colleague Phillip Rojen a selection of film publications that prompted this post.
What I found most appealing in the overview of past documentary film projects produced by Estonians is the inquisitiveness of the nation that gave us Skype and Monocle’s editor-in-chief Tyler Brûlé about the world and the place of slightly over a million of Estonians in it.
This is reflected in the three trends that I see in the Estonian dox:
1. Estonians abroad. Example: The Samurai of Chernobylby Ivar Heinmaa that observes the anatomy of two great disasters – Chernobyl 1986 vs. Fukushima 2011, — life of the inhabitants of the danger zone and draws the viewers attention to the 5000 men that Soviet Estonia sent to Chornobyl in 1986. Between 1986-1993, 28 of them committed suicide.
2. Life of indigenous peoples, especially in the Russian Federation. When I mentioned this trend to an Global Estonian transmedia friend, Kris Haamer, sitting inside Estonia’s oldest cinema, Kino Sõprus (literally Cinema Friendship), he suggested that, in all my future conversations about Estonian documentary trends, I shouldn’t overlook the fact that the second President of Estonia was one of the people that fall into this category.
The Film The Winds of the Milky Way (Linnutee tuuled) by Lennart Meri (yes, the Lennart Meri Tallinn International Airport’s Meri), shot in co-operation with Finland and Hungary, was banned in the Soviet Union, but won a silver medal at the New York Film Festival. In Finnish schools, his films and texts were used as study materials.
In 1941, the Meri family was deported to Siberia. Whilst in exile, Lennart Meri grew interested in Uralic languages that he heard around him, the language family of which Estonian is a part. His interest in the ethnic and cultural kinship amongst the scattered Uralic family had been a lifelong theme within his work.
3. Foreigners in Estonia and the Russian minority, as a sub-category. Example of these is Jüri Sillart’s Volli, Sempre Volli, a film about a charismatic Italian entrepreneur in Estonia, the multimillionaire Ernesto Achille Preatoni, now an Estonian citizen.
If you were the Mongolian government how would you keep track of nomadic population that you are to serve? One option would be to come up with something called baghs. Most of these administrative units are of an entirely virtual nature. Their purpose is to sort the families of nomads in the sum (district) into groups, without a permanent human settlement. The 21 aimags (provinces) of Mongolia are divided into 329 sums.
Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar is located roughly at the center of an aimag called Töv. We are heading towards Zaamar sum, located 180 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar. Zaamar is bordered by the Tuul River on its west side. According to the Wikipedia community, the river is being polluted by Ulaanbaatar’s central sewage treatment facility as well as by gold mining in the Zaamar area.
As a consequence, the Tuul, Orkhon and Selenge rivers have become more and more polluted because of the use of antiquated technologies by mining companies. As these rivers are the main tributaries of Lake Baikal in the Russian Federation, the world’s largest and oldest lake (at 25 million years) has faced a significant increase in its level of pollution.
His name is Patience Singo. He is a mining engineer from Zimbabwe. Just the right guy to be covered by Steppes in Sync because it is Mongolia where Mr Singo settled down.
Thanks to Deutsche Welle, we now know that the Zimbabwean had worked in various development projects across Africa before joining the Swiss Development Council and the government of Mongolia in a sustainability project for small-scale miners.
Thanks to the Colombo-based The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, we now know that these miners are known locally as “ninja miners” because of the green tubs strapped to their backs. Remeber the 1980’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
The idea that foreign aid workers can only come from developed countries is not exclusive to Mongolia. “How can an African guy possibly help us?” some had asked there confused by Patience Singo’s presence.
“I think the development challenges that Mongolia has, identify with the challenges that exist in Africa,” Singo responds with patience. He believes someone from the West who has never experienced such challenges himself may not be able to pass on solutions in an inclusive manner.
Singo also had noticed something he found rather funny. In the development sector, it often happens that Western experts are sent for training in one developing country so they can gain experience in such a context and then pass it on to people in other majority world nations.
Any other notes to take about South-South cooperation from this Zimbabwean roaming the vast steppes of Central Asia? “Mongolians are used to being nomadic, to living in an individualistic culture. But as Africans we are community-based people, there is a unique African value we call Ubuntu. And I always try to bring that community culture into the team, because of my African background.”
The project’s accountant Otgonsuren Gombosuren appreciates that.
“They are very formal,”she says about the Swiss people she meets working with the SDC. “They only say ‘Guten Tag’ and ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ and give me some papers to sign.”
Speaking of her Zimbabwean colleague, Gombosuren gets excited, “We are doing all the planning and finance together. I learned a lot of English vocabulary from him.”
Back to the West by way of Ukraine where Estonian filmmaker Marianna Kaat recently produced Pit #8, documentary about young coal miners in Snizhne, Donetsk oblast.