Price: $195.00

    Code: 2375

    Directed by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev
    2010, 80 Minutes
    Purchase: $195 | Classroom Rental: $95

    The incredible story of how a treasure trove of banned Soviet art worth millions of dollars was found in the desert of Uzbekistan develops into a larger exploration of how art survives in times of oppression.

    During the reign of the Soviet Union, a small group of artists remain true to their vision despite threats of torture, imprisonment and death. Their plight inspires a young archeologist (and frustrated painter) Igor Savitsky. Pretending to buy State-approved art, Stavisky 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. He amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, 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 priceless paintings are a lucrative target 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.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Emmy Nominee, Outstanding Arts & Culture Programming, 2012
    * Emmy Nominee, Outstanding Achievement in Music, 2012
    * Official Selection, MoMA, Documentary Fortnight, 2011
    * Official Selection of PBS Independent Lens 2011 Season
    * Winner, Cine Golden Eagle Award, 2010
    * Winner, Best Documentary, Prescott Film Festival, 2010
    * Winner, Palm Beach International Film Festival, 2010
    * Winner, Duck Award for Audience Love, Beijing International Movie Festival Golden, 2010
    * Official Selection, Vancouver International Film Festival, 2010
    * Official Selection, Doc Aviv, Film Festival Israel, 2010
    * Official Selection, Cleveland International Film Festival, 2010


    "A gorgeous documentary." - The New York Times

    “An astonishing trove of Russian avant-garde art and the man who collected it are the focus of this fascinating new documentary.… The Desert of Forbidden Art tells a tale that is stranger than fiction several times over. Viewers of this remarkable documentary will be astonished at not only what this art looks like and why it's forbidden, but also where it is and how it got there.” - LA Times

    “A must-see for anyone interested in art." - Village Voice

    “This is a story that is almost too good to be true. The fascinating and improbable story of Stavisky's life and his obsession is the subject of a new, extremely eloquent and captivating documentary film.” - Huffington Post

    “Fascinating Story … well-crafted film captures the flavor of the region, but the most arresting sights are inevitably those of the bold, richly colored paintings themselves.” – Variety

    "Critic's Pick! Fans of art and of Russian and Central Asian culture in particular will be fascinated." - New York Magazine

    “Highly recommended. Students in a variety of courses will gain much from this documentary. Political science and history students can contemplate the fate of art and artists in an authoritarian system. Art history students, meanwhile, will be intrigued by this heretofore unknown expression of the Russian avant-garde—which took the Uzbeks as a starting point for the fusion of European modernism and Central Asian Islamic culture.” - Educational Media Reviews Online

    “Gorgeous to look at and horrible in its revelations, The Desert of Forbidden Art achieves what documentaries do best, uncovering and exploring a world that the viewer probably had no idea existed.” - Globe and Mail

    "An amazing, inspirational film... Reveals one of the great secrets of modern art. A gem. " - Vancouver Sun

    "The film blends lively protagonists with images of artworks that blend influences from the School of Paris, Russian Constructivism and the Islamic cultures of Uzbekistan.” - Cleveland Plain Dealer

    The Desert of Forbidden Art proves that, in many societies, the creation of art is a scream for freedom.… As much about Soviet identity in the early 1930s as it is about the museum in Nukus... creates awareness for a legacy still largely unknown and not fully appreciated. The documentary is inherently interesting, and the hope is that it will do some bidding for the survival of the museum and/or its collection.” – Moving Pictures Magazine

    "One of the most remarkable collections of 20th-century Russian art." - New York Times

    "One of the most outstanding museums of the world." - Guardian, UK

    "For art and history buffs, this “desert” provides an oasis of dazzling images and inspiring words that are testament to the indomitable artistic spirit." - Booklist

    "Shedding light on a remarkable, little-known story, this is highly recommended." - Video Librarian

    “The filmmakers present touching biographies in alternation with the stunning scenery of the desert, the powerful artworks, and pictures from this provincial museum.”
    - Slavic Review

    Further Reading

    'Decadent' Russian Art, Still Under the Boot's Shadow, by Ellen Barry in The New York Times