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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Tovarisch, I am not Dead. (2007) - Movie Review

Director: Stuart Urban
Starring: Noka Kapranova, Anne Applebaum, Garri Urban
Running Time: 83 minutes

Score: 10/10

Garri Urban was a survivor - not a victim - of both the Holocaust and the Gulag. He overcame adversity through a mixture of charm, aggression and chutzpah. His 1980 autobiography took its title from when he was shot during his attempt to swim across an icy river from Soviet territory to Romania. He told the snipers who stooped to lift his apparently lifeless body: "No, tovarisch (comrade), I'm not dead" before striking their officer.
This from info-2276. It's currently showing at the Fact in Liverpool. Spoilers Ahoy!

There is no question that Stuart Urban is a talented filmmaker and a great person. But what inspires a filmmaker is partially due to reality of people's actions, and sometimes reality is much more powerful than fiction.

This is a real story of Garri Urban, a distinguished Russian-Jew who, like many others of the Stalin era, was persecuted by the KGB, but like so few managed to break free from their iron fist. Fifty years after his captivity and escape, his son Stuart Urban does a documentary on his late father's life. They re-visit the harsh places where Garri was a beaten, tortured, and brutalized.

The story reveals Garri as a highly intelligent man who spoke ten languages, was asked to start a career in acting because of his great looks and charisma, but also sought-after by the KGB for his valuable use of German.

This story shows us who this man is by giving details about his personal life, his respect towards women, his love for his mother, and his iron-willed determination not to be intimidated by the tactful KGB officers.

The filmmaker and his father visit Moscow, Tashkent, and Ivana Frankofs, a small town in Ukraine to uncover missing files, and re-visit Garri's old home.

This film has an amazing grasp of Russian, Ukrainian, and Jewish culture. But even more so, it's about an inspiring person who has all the qualities of a great leader and a great man, whom we all can learn from!

Unfortunately, Garri did not live to see the completion of Stuart's documentary, but his life story deserves recognition, and he will continue to live and inspire us in this wonderful work.

Discuss in the forum.