Springtime in the East Bloc: Classic Films of the “Thaw” Era from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine

In this five-session course, we will view and discuss four classics of East Central European cinema from the late 1950s and 1960s. These films were produced during a period of cultural relaxation in the East Bloc – a springtime, or “Thaw,” in the words of Soviet writer, Ilya Ehrenburg -- following the long winter of Stalinism. We’ll begin with Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s Ashes and Diamonds from 1958, then move to the Czech “New Wave” with Jiri Menzel’s Closely Watched Trains from 1966, followed by Hungarian director István Szabó's Father from 1966, and conclude with Armenian-Ukrainian director Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors from 1965. We’ll look at these films in the historical, political, and cultural context of their times. What dilemmas did the filmmakers face in a totalitarian society? How were they able to explore questions of national history and identity under Soviet domination? What kinds of questions did they address when censorship was eased?

Venue: The Engineering Center
Meets on: Wednesdays 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Starting: 2/7/2024
Sessions: 5
Class Size: 20
Teaching Style: Seminar
Weekly Preparation: 1 hour
Group Leader Biography:

Cathy Mannick is a former international lawyer with 20 years of experience representing U.S. businesses in the former Soviet Union. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard, a trustee of the Icon Museum and Study Center in Clinton, Massachusetts, and a board member of the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation in Washington, D.C. Cathy earned her undergraduate degree in Russian Studies from Yale University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She also earned an M.A. in history from Harvard, where she was a tutor in the History and Literature Department, focusing on early 20th century Imperial Russian and Soviet history. Cathy has led four courses on Soviet and contemporary Russian history and cinema at Beacon Hill Seminars.