Margarita Nafpaktitis / Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures

One of the courses that I teach for the Slavic Department is on Russian and Soviet Film (RUTR 391).  In it, I introduce students to some of the artistic masterpieces and to some of the popular hits of the Russian cinematic tradition, and my students invariably introduce me to entirely new ways of seeing those films. My students are experts at “reading” films, because they are absolutely comfortable with the medium – most of them have grown up with it. Their comfort with film also, I think, predisposes them toward exposure to a different culture through it.  One of the great strengths of film is its capacity to create a unique and self-contained world, with its own sights, sounds, people, places.  Some of the students in my film class have been captivated by the uniquely Russian worlds they encounter during the course, and it would be so gratifying to have the opportunity to help them pursue their interest further.

My Dream Idea is to take 5 students to the next Russian Film Symposium at the University of Pittsburgh this May (Monday the 4th through Sunday the 10th). Begun in 1999, the Russian Film Symposium is a well-established and highly respected intensive week-long event. Each day, there are two daytime film screenings, introduced by a leading scholar and followed by discussion, as well as four evening screenings over the course of the week. Every year, the films that are shown are very recent, usually not yet available in the United States, and they are introduced and discussed by some of the foremost scholars of Russian film from the United States, Russia, and around the world who have been specially invited for the symposium.  This year’s theme will be “The New Positive Hero: Masculinity and Genre in Recent Russian Cinema,” and cast members from the films to be shown during the evening screenings will be in attendance.

I have been in touch with the organizer of the symposium, Vladimir Padunov, who has kindly agreed to allow the students in my group to be present at the two round table discussions, even though they are usually only open to official participants and organizers, and even though only delegations of graduate students (not undergraduate) have attended the symposium in the past.  Prof. Padunov also offered to arrange for hotel rooms at the discounted rate for official participants.

In addition to attending symposium events, I would ask the students to work together on a blog that includes reviews of the films they’ve seen, as well as their impressions of the symposium.  Prior to our departure, I would also schedule a series of three 2-hour pre-symposium workshops, during which students would prepare for the symposium by learning more about the directors, genres, and historical and cultural contexts that will be represented in the film lineup, and to set up ground rules and expectations for the blog.  During the week of the symposium, I would attend all events with the students and be available for discussion and consultation with them.

For students interested in learning more about Russian film, this would be a unique opportunity to see some of the latest and most interesting work emerging out of Russia, as well as to observe how eminent film scholars do their work.  Attending the Russian Film Symposium at the University of Pittsburgh would extend their knowledge far beyond the walls of the RUTR 391 classroom, and I would welcome the opportunity to share the experience with them.


Budget (for 5 students + instructor)

Seven days’ hotel accommodation (Sunday, May 3 – Sunday, May 10) $110/day per room, double occupancy, special rate for symposium attendees at Wyndham Garden Hotel (includes breakfast) x 3 (6 people, double occupancy) x 7 days


Evening film screenings @ Pittsburgh Filmmakers / $6 per person, per screening (4 screenings x $6 x 6 people)


Minivan rental (8 days, b/c rental car agency is closed on Sunday, the day we’d be traveling to Pittsburgh) includes tax + unlimited mileage


Minivan parking at hotel and/or university / $16/day x 7 days


Daily film screenings, panel discussions and round tables / Two daytime panels/screenings per day, plus two round table discussions



This budget does not include food (although breakfast will be provided at the hotel), but if the Mead Endowment were to sponsor my Dream Idea, I would try to secure additional funds from other sources.  Otherwise, I’d ask students who participate to be sure to bring enough funds to cover lunch and dinner for the week.  Below is my estimate for meals:


$40 p/person per/day x 6 people x 8 days (UVA procurement services recommendations for lunch/dinner – breakfast is included with hotel)