The Films of Judit Elek and Nana Djordjadze
Saturday & Sunday November 2-3, 2002
at American Museum of the Moving Image
|The legacy of Communism and the complexity of women’s experience across several generations are examined by the Georgian filmmaker Nana Djordjadze and the Hungarian filmmaker Judit Elek, two preeminent women directors whose work is rarely shown in the United States. Foregrounding personal experience rather than politics and history, their films differ from the official stories of the various regimes as well as from the work of their male colleagues. In their richly textured movies, the directors’ lives are inextricable from the social and political histories of their countries. The films delineate a kind of generational autobiography, with each artist addressing the specifics of her cultural, ethnic, and socio-historical landscape. Both Djordjadze and Elek have made films that broke new ground in terms of content and style; and each has had to struggle with existing regimes-before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain-to continue working as they wished. –Wanda Bershen, Guest Curator
|1:00 p.m.||THE LADY FROM CONSTANTINOPLE
Hungary, 1969, 76 mins.
Elek’s auspicious debut film is a rueful portrait of an elderly woman who wants to exchange her spacious apartment for a smaller one. As half of Budapest invades to vie for the flat, an impromptu party spontaneously erupts.
|3:00 p.m.||PANEL DISCUSSION:
“The Lives Of Eastern European Women On Film”
Guest curator Wanda Bershen will moderate a panel discussion including directors Judit Elek and Nana Djordjadze, and Catherine Portugues, film studies professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
|4:30 p.m.||MARIA’S DAY
Hungary, 1983, 115 mins.
As they gather to celebrate their youngest daughter’s birthday, an aristocratic 19th-century Hungarian family unravels amid the extreme changes of European politics and culture. Le Monde praised the film’s Chekhovian atmosphere.
|6:30 p.m.||A FREE MAN: THE LIFE OF ERNO FISCH
Hungary, 1998, 107 mins., video.
By hiding in a forest for six months, Erno Fisch became the only Jew from his small Transylvania village to survive the Holocaust, With interviews and rare archival material, Elek beautifully portrays the drama of the unfolding century as well as Fisch’s life as a secular cosmopolitan Jew who grew up during the final days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
|Biography||Born in Budapest in 1937, Judit Elek graduated from the Budapest Academy of Theatre and Film in 1955 (the only woman in her class), where she was a contemporary of future Oscar-winner Istvan Szabo. Working for the new Bela Balazs studio, Elek developed an impressive documentary practice in the 1960s and ç70s using improvisation and non-professional actors.
Turning to drama with THE LADY FROM CONSTANTINOPLE, (1969), the film was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, generating excellent reviews for the young director. MARIAçS DAY (1985), set in 1848, drew subtle parallels between the dissolute 19th-century Hungarian aristocracy and the contemporary Communist bureaucracy. In 1989, Elek began investigating her Jewish past with MEMORIES OF A RIVER, a stunning historical epic about the last ritual murder trial of Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, followed by AWAKENING (1994), and her recent documentary, A FREE MAN: THE LIFE OF ERNO FISCH (1998). Awarded the coveted Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, Elek has remarked of her work è[I]t seems that history and I always meet somewhere. Sometimes history comes to us. Sometimes I go to itî (San Francisco Chronicle 1990).
|2:00 p.m.||ROBINSON CRUSOE IN GEORGIA
Georgia, 1986, 70 mins.
Based on the memoir of her grandparents’ romance, this is a crazy-quilt story about a British telegraph engineer who falls in love with a local beauty in 1920s Georgia. Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes.
|4:00 p.m.||A CHEF IN LOVE
Georgia, 1996, 105 mins.
This offbeat love story is about a French chef and a beautiful local princess who meet on a train in 1920s Georgia. The chef opens a gourmet restaurant in Tbilisi, but the Revolution ends their idyll. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
|6:30 p.m.||27 MISSING KISSES
Georgia, 2000, 96 mins.
A carefree 14-year-old girl arrives for summer vacation in a sleepy eastern town, and falls for middle-aged widower while unwittingly winning the heart of his teenaged son. This tragicomedy about life in the former Soviet Union reveals the absurdities of socialist life, particularly its notoriously hidden libido.
|Biography||One of Georgia’s leading filmmakers, Nana Djordjadze discovered movies at so-called “cinema clubs,” where banned foreign films were shown late at night. Transfixed by Jean Renoir, Robert Flaherty, and Luis Bunuel among others, she went to Prague in 1968, at the age of 16 to attend the Academy of Art. Caught up in the excitement of “Prague spring,” she was arrested and sent home when Soviet troops arrived. Following studies at the Music Academy & the Art Academy in Tbilisi, she studied direction at the Film and Theater School (1974-80) in a group including filmmaker Irakli Kvirikadze, whom she later married. Her diploma film, THE JOURNEY TO SOPOT (1979), won several awards and her next film ROBINSON CRUSOE IN GEORGIA (1987), won the Camera d’Or at Cannes. In 1997 her film A CHEF IN LOVE was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and distributed in the US. Her most recent film, 27 MISSING KISSES, premiered at Cannes and has played theatrically throughout Europe. Ms. Djordjadze has been on the faculty at the Georgian Film School (1985-90), at the Film Academy in Moscow(1991-95), and has served on the juries for Cannes (1992), Venice (1997), and Berlin (1998).|
|This series is made possible in part with support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and from Lifetime Television. Special thanks to Katalin Vajda, FilmUnio (Budapest); Egoli Films (Berlin); Sony Pictures Classics; Irina Kovarova (Czech Center, New York), Eva Zaoraleva (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival).|