Tchavdor Georgiev, Amanda Pope | Russian Federation, United States, Uzbekistan | 80 mins
How does art survive in a time of oppression? During periods of Soviet rule artists who stayed true to their vision risked mental hospitals and Gulags. Their plight inspired young Igor Savitsky who through his adult life purchases 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's work as curator of the Nukus museum. Though often penniless, Savitsky finds creative ways to cajole the cash to pay for art from the same authorities who are banning it.
Savitsky amasses an eclectic collection of Russian Avant-Garde art, but his greatest discovery is an unknown school of painters who settled in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917. These
Russian artists, encountering Uzbekistan's unique Islamic culture for the first time, develop a startlingly original style. Uzbekistan for them, as exotic as Tahiti for Gauguin, inspires the fusion of centuries-old Eastern traditions into European modernism.
Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists he collected. Intercut with recollections by the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film narrates tribulation for the sake of creative freedom. The Savitsky Collection of the Nukus Museum today constitutes one of the world's most outstanding collections of 20th Century Russian art. Worth millions, it remains a lucrative target for corrupt bureaucrats, art profiteers, and arguably even Islamic fundamentalists. The collection is as endangered as when Savitsky first created it. Whose responsibility is it to preserve this remarkable cultural treasure?
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