Price: $310.00

    Code: 2275

    Directed by Lucy Kostelanetz
    2007, 96 Minutes
    Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125

    ** To order a home video DVD of Sonia for individual use, please contact us at (800) 723-5522.

    A magical portrait of Russia's revolutionary artistic avant-garde - Mayakovsky, Voloshin, Blok, Malevich, Tatlin - through the life of Sonia Dymshitz-Tolstaya, an impassioned artist whose life reflected the social upheavals of her time.

    Known familiarly as Sonia, Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya (1886 - 1963) was born into a wealthy Jewish merchant family in St. Petersburg. Inspired early on by the promise of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, she risked everything to make a better life for herself and others.

    In 1907, she eloped with the young writer Alexei Nicolaevich Tolstoy (a distant relative of Leo) and was subsequently disowned by her family. Together, she and Tolstoy began a Bohemian, artistically adventurous life among what later became known as the Russian Avant-Garde.

    By 1915 she had left Tolstoy and two years later met and became intimate with the Constructivist artist Vladimir Tatlin (architect of the famous Monument to the Third International). With Tatlin at her side, she became part of the Revolution's inner circle of writers, artists and composers - one of the few Jewish women in this collective - who believed they could transform the entire world into their dream of Utopia.

    However, unlike many of her contemporaries, Sonia refused to leave the Soviet Union. The remainder of her life was spent in Leningrad where she endured the brutal Purges of the thirties, the Siege of 1942, and the death of Stalin in 1953.

    Sonia's story is brought to life through interviews, journal entries, memoirs, letters, family photographs, works of art, and rare archival footage, as well as innovative and beautiful animated sequences - a kind of photomontage - inspired by Sonia's artwork and by the style that characterized much of the art of the Russian Avant-garde. A story about passion, art and idealism, Sonia is a tribute to an extraordinary artist and a unique moment in history.

    Visit the official website of Sonia -

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Official Selection, New York Jewish Film Festival, 2007
    * Official Selection, Documentary Fortnight, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007
    * Official Selection, International Festival of Films on Art, Montreal, 2007
    * Official Selection, Vancouver International Jewish Film Festival, 2007
    * Official Selection, Toronto Jewish Film Festival, 2007
    * Official Selection, Milano Doc Festival, “Dal Futurismo Al Futuro”, Italy, 2007
    * Official Selection, Jewish Eye – World Jewish Film Festival, Israel, 2007


    “Engaging and visually inventive!” – Village Voice

    “Vibrant and revelatory! A unique window on the Russian art scene during the early revolutionary day… Kostelanetz successfully captures the promiscuous intermingling of the personal, artistic and political in Sonia’s fully engaged bohemian lifestyle.” – Variety

    “A genealogical search takes on broader historical themes in Lucy Kostelanetz’s documentary about her great-aunt Sofia Dymshitz-Tolstaya (known as ‘Sonia’)…. A penetrating portrait of a strong-willed woman who sought to make her own way in a time of turbulent social and political change – as well as an affectionate family tribute – Sonia is recommended.” - Video Librarian

    “Sonia’s grand niece, Lucy Kostelanetz, has produced much more than a simple biography. She has incorporated memoirs, archival film footage, family and historical photographs, and contemporary interviews to create a profile of artistic life during revolutionary times… Kostelanetz successfully combines many sources of information creatively. Her use of overlaying photographs creates a sort of ‘animated decoupage’ which adds interest to the overall production. The technical quality is very high, and all the more impressive given the creative visual approach. This program is highly recommended for high school through college and perhaps general adult audiences. Courses in art history, humanities, and women’s studies will benefit from this video.” – Educational Media Reviews Online

    “A magnificent documentary! The film doesn’t just tell the story of one artist; it tells the story of a country. I would even say it tells the history of 20th century as reflected in the life of one individual…. So if you’re interested in 20th-century history, or if you’re interested in the art of film, or … let me put it this way: Every viewer will find his or her own reason not to miss the screening of this picture. As for myself, I would just recommend this film to you as one human being to another, as one viewer to another. Because I personally enjoyed it.” – The Russian Forward

    “The film makes an unexpected and stunning impression. To do something truly new in a documentary is a daunting task, but Lucy Kostelanetz, I would say, has pulled it off…. But just what is it that makes this movie about Sonia so overwhelmingly involving to watch? A fascinating life story, for one thing, a life story interwoven with an era that saw the overthrow of the tsar and the birth of a new, Bolshevik order that would change Russia and the world forever.” – Novoye Russkoye Slovo (New Russian Word)