The Desert Of Forbidden Art (2011)
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Critic Reviews for The Desert Of Forbidden Art
Viewers of this remarkable documentary will be astonished at not only what this art looks like and why it's forbidden, but also where it is and how it got there.
One anecdote about Savitsky flouting an official demand to remove an offending painting ends with this deftly scoffing voice-over from his stand-in, Ben Kingsley: "Anti-Soviet? Of course. Degenerate? No way."
Audience Reviews for The Desert Of Forbidden Art
"The Desert of Forbidden Art" is an informative documentary about a fascinating subject, the Nukus Museum in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic of Uzbekistan. When this area was part of the Soviet Union, the Stalinist idea was to repress the local culture as much as possible in favor of conformity.(On the plus side, women's liberation was introduced.) In response, Igor Savitsky began collecting as much local folk art as he could to put it in a museum, so it could be viewed and preserved. If that was not daring enough, then he also went on to do something similar for censored avant garde art which clashed with the official propaganda artwork of the social realist style that ironically had nothing to do with reality.
While getting bonus points for using a clip from the excellent movie "The White Sun of the Desert," "The Desert of Forbidden Art" mainly relies on the testimony of survivors and children of artists to tell its story. While it allows for an emotional recounting of events, it sadly does not allow for a coherent timeline. And yes we know all about the gulags by now. As for the present day, the documentary summarily skips over reported Uzbek human rights abuses(hat tip: Dirty Diplomacy by Craig Murray) in favor of what it feels is the greater peril of "radical Islam."
Lovely doc about a Soviet curator who built a museum of banned art in Uzbekistan under Stalin's nose, saving and collecting artwork from artists all over the USSR. Feels a bit PBS-y, and ends abruptly, but it's a fascinating story about the triumph of art over censorship.
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