Nov 4th 2010

Often absurd and occasionally shattering, Alina Rudnitskaya’s documentaries are tragicomic field notes on the bracing cultural and political changes of “New Russia.” Produced largely through the storied St. Petersburg Documentary Studio, her films examine the day-to-day lives of her fellow citizens while illuminating their aspirations for and fantasies about the future. This evening, in a rare U.S. appearance, Rudnitskaya presents three films from her award-winning body of work. In Bitch Academy (2008), she follows a group of women who go back to school to become “strong women” by learning to seduce millionaire sugar daddies. Some revel in the school’s provocative hands-on lessons while others grimly choke back tears—only hinting at the troubles they hope to escape—as they struggle to master this new form of empowerment. In Civil Status (2005), Rudnitskaya observes the everyday drama of work at the Civil Registry office, where the ladies-only staff transforms the joy, fury, and grief of new brides, divorcing husbands, and recent widows into bureaucratic procedure. And, in Besame Mucho (2006) she sketches an intimate portrait of an amateur choir in rural Tikhvin as they rehearse for group of Italian diplomats.

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