Screened as part of Autumn Events 2016
Mecca for the world’s ballet lovers, and a proud symbol of Russian culture, the Bolshoi Ballet took that symbolism to a very sinister place in 2013: artistic director Sergei Filin was disfigured in an attack ordered by a dancer from his own company. Filmmakers Nick Read and Mark Franchetti were working in Moscow at the time and secured cooperation from both dancers and administrators to film this account of artistic endeavour cloaked in prestige and entrammelled in political ambition. The dance we see is glorious in its muscularity and panache. (The costumes alone deserve their own movie.) But dramas off-stage take the foreground here, and they are enacted with a ferocity that is just as breath-taking.
“British documentary-maker Nick Read's Bolshoi Babylon explores the bizarre case in more detail, but grows even more interesting when it examines how this storied cultural institution struggles to survive tempestuous politics both inside and outside the theater walls…
As new broom [GM] Vladimir Urin takes steps to clean up the mess, cannily managing both his own and the company's image through his cooperation with the filmmakers, it becomes clear just how many interested parties there are eager to influence the company's future, going all the way up to President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.” — Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter