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