Marina Razbezhkina

Marina Razbezhkina will be homaged by the festival. She will be present at the screening of Harvest Time.

Films selected for Imagineindia 2019

Harvest Time (2004)

Holidays (2006)

Not My Job (2015)


Marina Aleksandrovna Razbezhkina is a graduate of the Philology Faculty of the Kazan University. She worked as a teacher in a village school, as a journalist in some mass media, and then as a scriptwriter and director of documentary films.  Razbezhkina’s documentaries have won prizes at prestigious national and international film festivals.

Razbezhkina was born in 1948 in the city of Kazan, USSR. After graduating with a degree in Philology from Kazan State University in 1971 she entered the field of documentary filmmaking. Working as a screenwriter in Kazan, she later moved to Moscow where she directed her first film Harvest Time. Her debut film gained critical acclaim, winning at the Taipei Film Festival in the category of International New Talent and at the Chicago International Film Festival for Best Feature Film.

In addition to her work in film Razbezhkina has lectured at Kazan University, Natalia Nesterova University and the Internews Film and Television School on the film industry. In 2008 Razbezhkina acted as a judge at the Kinotavr Film Festival and a year later she founded the Marina Razbezhkina School of Documentary Films and Theatre and became its principal.

Marina Razbezhkina is one of the most respected documentary makers in Russia. Her directorial voice is unmistakable: her ability to look at the life of a person from up close to reveal the essence of everyday life.

Razbezhkina’s Pedagogical Practice: The Five Interdictions

Razbezhkina’s pedagogic practice was set up in opposition to that of the VGIK film school, the world’s oldest, where, she suggests, due to its inward-looking nature (students arrive at 20 and leave at 80) she perceived the teaching had not responded to the new cultural and aesthetic realities of the 21st century. In articulating her alternative vision of a pedagogical practice in keeping with the possibilities and requirements of the digital age, Razbezhkina refers to five rules or interdictions that she requires her students to follow while learning filmmaking: she does not see them as absolutes, merely as a way of developing a sound approach to filmmaking.

1. Use of Music
Razbezhkina bans non-diegetic music, i.e. music inserted into the soundtrack by the filmmaker. This is because it might become a set of “emotional crutches” that support the image, or even ultimately dominate the film. Partly this is a question of ensuring that the visual is paramount, but it is also motivated by a desire to orientate both the films and viewers of them towards the contemporary, to sensitize them to what Razbezhkina calls the “reality” or “rhythm” of the film itself and of the present day: something not helped by the music of, for example, Mozart, she contends, in part because such music brings its previous uses and associations with it, that interfere with what we see.

2. Talking Heads
Students are not allowed to film subjects speaking straight to camera. Razbezhkina argues that in such cases the interviewees will attempt to give the camera crew what they require (or what they think is required). The person talking to camera, regardless of their social status, understands what the filmmaker wants and will usually lie, possibly even unconsciously, to please them. Discarding this technique is part of a rethinking of the power relations between filmmaker and subject, since often the question itself implies a certain answer, and it is difficult for the subject to change its premise. Thus, the form of the talking head is not only a cliché in itself, but it also circumscribes and forecloses understanding, presuming knowledge in advance: the interviewee becomes a kind of function, a means of delivering certain information.

Razbezhkina’s critique of this approach is informed by the practice of teatr.doc and the Russian verbatim theatre movement (Elena Gremina, Mikhail Ugarov), and her school is now entitled the Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov School of Documentary Cinema and Theatre. The influential teatr.doc scriptwriter, Aleksandr Rodionov, gets round the stereotypical accounts people often give, often by wrong-footing the protagonist with unexpected behavior and questions: it is also a kind of manipulation, but one that opens up the subject and produces more reality than the traditional interview approach.

3. Voice-over
Razbezhkina also regards the use of voice-over as manipulative, and is no less opposed to it. Possibly she spends less effort outlining her opposition to this approach because the manipulative, clichéd and problematic power relations inherent in the Voice-of-God form are self-evident, have been extensively critiqued already and clearly would not bring filmmaker and subject closer together.

4. The Zoom Lens
Razbezhkina’s students are banned from using the zoom lens, and are instead required to select a single focal length lens and then move closer or further away to change from close up to long shot. The idea here is to make the filmmaker’s relations with the subject explicit, and ensure that becoming unnoticed is a product of trust and open negotiation, hence the banning also of hidden camera, since people should know who is filming them.

5. The Tripod
Use of tripods is not permitted, because this prevents the camera (and person behind it) becoming unnoticed, instead making it the center of attention due to the lights, sound, and so forth that surround it. Instead, the use of the hand-held camera permits witnessing rather than directing and conducting: it becomes an extension of the body, like a spoon, effectively perceived as natural by both the filmmaker and subject, enabling the person behind the camera to better feel and understand the protagonist. To this end, one person films the film as cameraman–director–sound and light operator— one person does this from start to finish (Razbezhkina 2010; Masterclass at DOK Leipzig, Razbezhkina 2016).

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