The Russian Experiment

2:39:32

The Carmel Institute partnered with the PostClassical Ensemble to present a concert-symposium with world-renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman, October 19, 2017, at AU's Katzen Arts Center.

A Real-Life Rescue Mission: Salyut-7 at the Russian Embassy Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History Co-Hosts Special Premiere

Salyut-7 Q&A image

On February 11, 1985-at precisely 1:20 p.m. and 51 seconds-a twenty ton Soviet space station circling the earth stopped responding to its controllers. Silent and unresponsive, its orbit would eventually decay, with the distinct possibility that its uncontrolled re-entry would mean a catastrophic crash into a populated area. There was only one thing to be done: Go see what had happened and fix it, in a dangerous and technically risky outer space rescue mission.

The dramatic details of this real-life story are told through stunning live action and computer generated imagery in Russian director Klim Shipenko's latest film, the blockbuster space adventure Salyut-7, which had a special Carmel Institute premiere at the Russian Embassy's Tunlaw Theater on December 6. Mr. Shipenko attended the premiere, greeting guests, introducing the film, and taking questions afterward.

Movie goers enjoyed walking the red carpet and snapping photos, sipping hot cider, and indulging in a pre-screening buffet of Russian delicacies. Carmel Institute students joined students from American University and other local colleges such as Georgetown University, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland.

Mark Ruiz-an American University computer science major-was unfamiliar with the events of the film, but said "I love everything space-related, and I think exploring the technology and science behind it is absolutely mind-blowing. I think it's a great thing that we're showing through media what we can do in real-life."

AU Political Science and History major Gabriella Folsom-who is also pursuing a minor in Russian Language-shared that "what really draws me to these events is the cultural significance of having stuff like this going on; I really appreciate how much the Carmel Institute does for American University." She added that "these events are just absolutely fabulous in that they allow us to glimpse Russian culture without ever leaving the area."

Celeste Smith is majoring in International Relations and Environmental Studies at American University, and enjoys attending Carmel Institute events for the same reason. "I love to come because it's fun to have opportunities I wouldn't have had if I didn't come to college here," she said.

"It sort of allows a bridge to be built, whether it be through cinematography, or through the musical and fine arts-just to show that there is another side to the aspects of both cultures, other than just…politics," said Sydney Brennan, who is majoring in International Relations, with a possible minor in either Russian or Anthropology. Ms. Brennan said she has also begun to take Russian language courses at AU.

Lee Block-who just transferred to American University, to major in International Relations and Russian Language-said "a minor passion of mine is aerospace. So when I was twelve, I learned about the story of the Salyut-7, and ended up worshipping the mission. I'd put it on the same plane as Apollo 13." While many are unfamiliar with Salyut-7 apart from the media reports of the era, Mr. Block emphasized that "it was a first. The legacy of this mission still lives very strongly in international aerospace policy, just because it was such an impressive success in a field pockmarked by so many major problems, set-backs, and failures."

Cuts to space programs, Mr. Block felt, can be harmful to the development of future technology, especially if they take place in response to accidents. "I think the story of the Salyut-7 really underscores how important aerospace technology is, because it provides us with a template for going forward and making good out of crises…Turning something like what could have been an utter, drastic failure of the Salyut-7-turning that into such a resounding victory for aerospace research and technology and planning speaks volumes about just how important this field is," said Mr. Block.

As guests took their seats in the theater, they were welcomed by Carmel Institute Director Dr. Anton Fedyashin and Russian Embassy Cultural Attaché Daria Anisimova. Ms. Anisimova shared a statement from Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, who said: Salyut-7's depiction of the historical Space Race between the United States and Russia has "transformed into cooperation that can serve today as a model for working together to achieve a better understanding between our nations. In many common projects, our astronauts and cosmonauts have advanced knowledge together; risked their lives together-and they still do. And they rely on each other's knowledge to continue space exploration for the benefit of humankind."

Dr. Fedyashin noted that a space theme has been woven throughout the Carmel Institute's fall film offerings; Three Songs About Lenin features Central Asian locales that would decades later become the launch pads for the Soviet space program; White Sun of the Desert is screened as a pre-launch ritual by cosmonauts; and now, with Salyut-7, the premiere of a brand new space adventure.

Salyut-7 director Klim Shipenko-who studied film in the United States-told the audience "it is very important for me to have a screening of this film in the West, because I graduated from California State University at Northridge…so actually, this is the country where I got my education. I hope you will see it in my film-because I love American films." Mr. Shipenko said he began to watch American films as a teenager living in Moscow, and became determined to learn his intended craft in America.

Marking his fifth film outing with Salyut-7, Mr. Shipenko noted that the incident "is considered the most difficult mission in the whole history of space exploration." The idea to make the film existed for some time in Mr. Shipenko's portfolio, but the technical capability to realize his vision-through computer generated imagery (CGI)-is a fairly recent development.

Two cosmonauts-Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh-were chosen for the mission. One an engineer, the other a pilot, they were expected to dock with the dead, out-of-control, spinning space station and bring it back to life. Doing so was not a typical maneuver, and it was necessary to devise an entirely new set of docking techniques unlike anything ever previously attempted. These were modestly referred to as "docking with an uncooperative object".

In the mold of Ron Howard's Apollo 13, Mr. Shipenko's Salyut-7 is a cascade of aerospace disasters, with threats to the cosmonauts from every side and from every element: earth (if control of the station cannot be regained it will either plummet from space back to earth, and/or be destroyed by the Soviet military to protect state secrets); air (a lack of oxygen threatens to fatally maroon one of the cosmonauts); fire (an onboard blaze tears through the capsule until it is extinguished by opening a hatch); and water (when the icy spacecraft is thawed, the resulting water must be dried out before the machinery will again function).

The pace of Salyut-7 is exhilarating, and also largely manages to avoid feeling contrived-primarily because it is, indeed, based upon historical events (with a dash of Hollywood-style artistic license). Reviews have typically been positive, and audience response enthusiastic.

The Verge called Salyut-7 "a $15 million film that looks like a $150 million film, and for space buffs, it's a worthwhile experience just for the chance to be there in the station as each new stage of the situation unfolds"; summing up, The Verge said the film is an "enjoyable salute to space heroism, regardless of what culture it comes from."

i09 observed that "there are incredible zero-gravity sequences throughout, stunning POV shots outside the space station, and sequences filled with seemingly impossible camera movement. Shipenko knows what he's doing when it comes to these kind of effects and how to meld them with the story."

After the film, Mr. Shipenko took a range of questions from the audience, covering such topics as the cosmonauts' return to earth; what the Soviet public knew as the events were taking place; various historical details and their relation to the film's script; special effects; Mr. Shipenko's film background, his satisfaction with the finished film, and his next project.

"When I was a child-as [with] many other children-I dreamt [about becoming] a spaceman; a cosmonaut. It's one of the few industries children dream about," Mr. Shipenko shared. "Space is something magical, that draws children to itself. I was one of those children, and my dream realized itself in the form of this film." With such a background, Mr. Shipenko said he didn't hesitate when offered the Salyut-7 director's role.

During the making of Salyut-7, Mr. Shipenko consulted with the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, as well as the still-living cosmonauts portrayed in the film. The cosmonauts-with the surprising mix of humility and daring of those whose job just happens to be in outer space-were restrained about their accomplishments, Mr. Shipenko said.

"When I was talking to them and I was trying to get some details and some dramatic situations about the mission, I was like, 'Listen, tell me…what did you fear the most? What was the most scary, dangerous part?' They were looking at me and saying, 'It was quiet …that was the most scary thing." Pressing them for something more perilous, the cosmonauts instead told Mr. Shipenko, "Well, we were just working" and "It was kind of cold."

There is considerably more tension portrayed onscreen. "When you are making a film, you are of course exploiting the most dramatic outcomes-versions-of what might have happened," Mr. Shipenko said. "We're not making a documentary."

The cosmonauts had their own questions for Mr. Shipenko. "'You're not going to make it like Apollo 13 or something, [where] every other three minutes there's going to be an extreme situation and a crisis going on?' I said, 'No, no, no; of course not.' And of course, we made that." Nonetheless, "after they saw the film, they liked everything," Mr. Shipenko said.

Echoing Ambassador Antonov's earlier statement, Mr. Shipenko observed that "the space industry is one of the few industries that our countries are partnering in up to this date…There is no politics up there-it's just mutual respect for the craft, and for the work to do."

"They see earth-they see the world-that we live in from a point of view that only a few people see…they see something that we don't see in our everyday life," Mr. Shipenko said. "Maybe they know something that we don't know."

Asked what he hopes American audiences will take away from the film, Mr. Shipenko noted that Salyut-7 was shown during September at the Fantastic Fest film festival in Austin, Texas, where "they liked the fact that we show the different perspective…they are used to-I mean you are used to-that a film like this would have Bruce Willis saving the world, not the Russian side…they are seeing a different perspective, which was real; that's how it happened."

Salyut-7 is currently in release worldwide.

Mr. Shipenko teasingly told the audience his next film would, for the moment, have to remain a secret. "I don't like to announce my next projects too early, until they are finished," he said. "Maybe it's a superstition."

Once questions concluded, a dessert and sundae bar added a sweet finale to the evening, and cinema buffs left the theater with rocket-shaped cookies as a tasty keepsake of the space-themed event.

 

Photos from the film screening can be viewed on the Carmel Institute of Russian Culture & History Facebook page.


Salyut-7 US Premiere of new Russian film

Salyut-7 Film poster

With SPECIAL GUEST Director Klim Shipenko for a Q-and-A after the screening!

Released in October of 2017, Klim Shipenko's space thriller is based on real life events in June of 1985. After contact with the Salyut-7 space station is mysteriously lost, cosmonauts Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh risk their lives to pull off the first-ever docking with a spinning craft and bring the empty and frozen space station back to life.

Please come join us for a buffet dinner, the film screening with a question-and-answer session with our SPECIAL GUEST, Director Klim Shipenko to follow, and further discussion of the film over desserts.

Guests must show government-issued photo identification at the gate and all names on the guest list must match the identification of guests to enter. You MUST have your guest's name at the time of your ticket order - you will not be able to change the reservation once it is complete. Tickets are NOT transferable; if all tickets are claimed, we offer any tickets that become available to our wait list.

Business dress is required for this event and complimentary valet parking will be provided.

Transportation
The Institute-provided transportation pick-up times and places are below. Please be at the pickup location at least 5 minutes before the time posted to be sure you will not miss the bus pickup, as traffic conditions will impact the bus schedules. The bus will have a sign in the window with the pickup university and Tunlaw Theater destination.

American University - the bus will pick up at the main bus stop, behind Letts Hall at 5:15pm
George Washington University - the bus will pick up at 23rd and I St, on the metro station side at 5:15pm.
Georgetown University - the bus will pick up at 37th and O St, NW between 5:15pm and 5:30pm.
UMD, BC - the bus will pick up at 1000 Hilltop Circle, behind Retriever Activity Center at 4:15pm.
UMD, College Park - the bus will pick up at the Stamp Student Union, Union Lane between 5pm and 5:15pm.

RSVPs are required before noon on Monday, December 4. Invitations may only be used once; to request an invitation, please email us at carmelinstitute@american.edu and include your university affiliation and status (undergraduate, graduate, staff, faculty) or your professional affiliation in your request.

Sixth Annual Symposium-concert The Russian Experiment: Soviet Culture in the Twenties

2017 Symposium-concert announcment

The Carmel Institute for Russian Culture and History in cooperation with PostClassical Ensemble presents a symposium-concert

The Russian Experiment: Soviet Culture of the Twenties

The Carmel Institute is co-hosting a unique event exploring the cultural impact of the 1917 revolutions through arts and music with presentations by Anton Fedyashin and Joseph Horowitz and special performances of rare Soviet music for cello and piano by world renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman.

The evening's program:

RECEPTION - 6:00 PM (Kreeger Hall Lobby)

PROGRAM Part I - 7:30 PM

DESSERT BREAK - 8:10 PM

PROGRAM Part II - 8:30 PM

This event has limited seating capacity and is invitation-only. RSVPs must be received by Monday, October 16 at noon. RSVP confirmation emails must be in hand (on phone or paper) for entry into the event.

Please NOTE: this event is a first-come, first-seated event, even for ticket-holding guests. Seating capacity is limited so please arrive early.

PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION

Katzen Arts Center Garage will be available for parking and an American University shuttle runs continuously between AU-Tenleytown Metro Station to AU's Main Campus. Business attire is required for this event.

We are excited to offer this stimulating symposium-concert!

White Sun of the Desert Wednesday, October 11

Movie poster for White Sun of the Desert

One of the most popular Russian comedies explores the Bolsheviks in Central Asia during the 1920s.

Please come join us for a buffet dinner, the film screening with a question-and-answer session with Dr. Anton Fedyashin to follow, and further discussion of the film over desserts.

Location

Tunlaw Theater,
Embassy of the Russian Federation

2641 Tunlaw Rd, NW, Washington, DC
(Use Tunlaw Gate to enter embassy)

Guests must show government-issued photo identification at the gate and all names on the guest list must match the identification of guests to enter. Tickets are NOT transferable; if all tickets are claimed, we offer any tickets that become available to our wait list. Business dress is required for this event and complimentary valet parking will be provided.

Transportation

The Institute-provided transportation pick-up times and places are below. Please be at the pickup location at least 5 minutes before the time posted to be sure you will not miss the bus pickup, as traffic conditions will impact the bus schedules. The bus will have a sign in the window with the pickup university and Tunlaw Theater destination.

American University - The main bus stop behind Letts Hall at 5:15pm
George Washington University - near 23rd and I St, on the metro station side at 5:15pm.
Georgetown University - near 37th and O St, NW between 5:15pm and 5:30pm.
UMD, BC - 1000 Hilltop Circle, behind Retriever Activity Center at 4:30pm.
UMD, College Park - the Stamp Student Union, Union Lane between 5pm and 5:15pm.

Spring 2018 Events

Recent Events & News

Our Summer 2017 activities.

Astronaut in space; detail from The Spaceman film poster.

International

US Premiere of The Spacewalker

AU's Carmel Institute co-hosts screening of new Russian film to mark International Day of Cosmonautics.

Full Story

AU Summer Course "Revolutionary Russia: A Cultural Legacy, 1917-2017

The Carmel Institute sponsored students to attend Professor Anton Fedyashin's AU Summer Course. The course took ten students to St. Petersburg, Moscow and other Russian locations to explore Russian culture in person. Students walked the Russian capitals, visited museums, and attended cultural events to experience Russian culture first-hand.

An Evening with Fashion and Friends

Symposium at Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens

On 30 March, guests explored a captivating picture of diplomatic life in early nineteenth-century St. Petersburg through forty-five portraits from an album assembled by the family of politician and statesman Henry Middleton. Carmel Institute Director Anton Fedyashin provided the historical and political context of American-Russian relations during Henry Middleton's post as American Minister to Russia in the 1820s and 30s and Dr. Rosalind Blakesley placed the portraits assembled in the Middleton album in the history of Russian portraiture during the era.

Lexo Toradze Performance and Lecture

World-Renowned pianist at American University

In Katzen Arts Center on March 22, world-renowned pianist Mr. Lexo Toradze performed and lectured about the revolutionary changes in Russian and Soviet music after 1917 -- the experimentalism of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, the evolution of Soviet jazz, and the role of music during the Second World War. The audience also enjoyed a question-and-answer discussion with the artist after his performance.