About the Film Trailer Gallery Screenings

Soviet-Era Heroes at the 25th International Art and Film Festival.
By Ludmila Proujanskaia. Russian Canadian Info, April 1, 2007, pp. 3-4.

The International Film Festival, devoted to the arts, took place in Montreal from March 8—18 of this year. It was the 25th such event. The festival has traditionally presented several hundred “fresh” documentary films dealing with literature, painting, music, theater, ballet, film, modern design, etc., from various countries of the world. Films were shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Library, the Goethe German cultural center and other “cultural venues” around Montreal. As a rule, it was standing room only in the screening halls. The arts festival has long had its own special audience, and its prestige is beyond doubt.

…Authorship of a second film, one that became an event at the festival, belongs to an American woman with Russian roots, Lucy Kostelanetz. Her full-length film Sonia (2006) recounts the life of the remarkable artist and public figure Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya (she got the surname Tolstaya from her first husband, the noted writer Count Aleksei Nikolayevich Tolstoy). Ms. Kostelanetz performed an enormous amount of research in Moscow and St. Petersburg. There she labored in archives and libraries, and met with art critics and with friends and relatives of her heroine. As a result, she succeeded in creating a film/monograph in which a strong and impressive image emerges. A talented artist possessed of great energy, Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya devoted herself without reserve to the creation of the New Society. These days that kind of approach to life will draw skeptical smiles from some. But Sonia, as she is called in the film, was a woman of her time, a person for whom personal comfort and convenience were not the most important concern, and not in word but in deed. Incidentally, there were quite a few people like her at that time. Her creative and professional life contained many brilliant pages: her friendship with M. Voloshin, her close collaboration with V. Tatlin under the direction of People’s Commissar A. Lunacharsky, her work to establish the first Soviet women’s journals, Krestyanka [Peasant Woman] and Rabotnitsa [Working Woman], her theoretical studies in the field of the new art. Meanwhile, her personal life – also like that of many women of that period (owing to the repressions of the 1930s and the Great Patriotic War) – was marked by tragic losses. During the war
she lost her husband, who had barely emerged from Stalin’s camps alive. Their son died while defending Stalingrad. Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya died in 1963 in utter solitude.

This moving and utterly faithful film by Lucy Kostelanetz, who is, by the way, a grand niece of Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya, is striking in terms of its precise knowledge of the period. It is another important page in the chronicle of our country. There can be no doubt that Sonia the film will draw interest in modern-day Russia, where, as the great actor M. Ulyanov complained not long before his death, “these days there are no heroes.”

Photo: Sonia standing in the middle of her siblings, above her brother and mother, 1903.







© 2010 Lucy Kostelanetz Productions, LLC

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