Film Screening: "The Desert of Forbidden Art"

September 26, 2011

How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule, artists who stay true to their vision are executed or sent to mental hospitals or Gulags.

Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art, but he instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist’s works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. However, his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture that is as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.

Ben Kingsley, Sally Field, and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists’ children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as “one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art” and located in one of the world’s poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions and persist as lucrative targets for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats, and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question, “Whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure?”

Directors Amanda Pope and Tchavder Georgiev will introduce the film, and a special Q&A will be held after the screening.


For more information, please contact the Carpenter Performing Arts Center Box Office at 562.985.7000 or visit the event webpage.

You can access the the film’s official website here.

This is part of the B-Word Project.