Dimitri Devyatkin. Finally an interesting and intelligent sensibility in video.
I really liked Devyatkin’s tapes…. There is an intelligence and sensitivity
reflected in everything he does. The first video artist whose work I want to
Jones Mekas, The Village Voice “Movie Journal” - 1972
work… is situated on the frontiers of video art and video documentary. As the
separation between these directions deepens, Devyatkin’s work integrates the
two domains in a totally personal manner.”
Genvieve Van Cauwenberge, Liege, Belgium – 1978
access to Soviet life was through friends who would fetch him from his room and
push him in a taxi, telling him there was something he just had to tape. The
result is an unusual and revealing look at how ordinary Soviet citizens live.”
David Dupot, The Sunday Rutland Herald, Vermont - 1980
“Devyatkin’s documentary style moves lyrically
rather than narratively. No political points are made… Their perspectives are
real and human. They are successful and exceptional. ...
of your interest or lack thereof in video art, The Sordid Affair is a loaded
color warhead of a tape taken straight from former President Richard Nixon's
infamous first Watergate speech. Remember the day that Dean, Ehrlichman and
Haldeman were ushered out of the Administration, as Nixon assured Americans
that "There can be no whitewash in the White House."? Devyatkin
explains, "My TV did something strange to Nixon's image. When he lied, the
TV wobbled his face and the more dense his lies became, the more abstract
became the image of his face until it was hardly a face anymore.".... The
Sordid Affair is an historical grotesque tragi-comedy that sticks voodoo pins
into the American memory. Remember to laugh when you hear line after line of
incredibly sick rhetoric."
David Skarjune, The Minnesota Daily, Minneapolis - 1980
“KABC’s special tonight is the one to watch.
It’s as intriguing as its title suggests, “Video From Russia: The People Speak”
… a rare opportunity to hear spontaneous comments from people who are lumped
together in political rhetoric as our enemy. It is fascinating, but more than
that it is humanizing. There are recognizable scenes of people shopping in the
open market, of citizens paying their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier in Volgograd, of people dancing to American rock music at a disco, of a
young woman with safety pins in her ears who says she is part of the punk
Lee Margulies, The Los Angeles Times – July 26, 1984
this special simple and small, producer-director Dimitri Devyatkin has come up
with a winner. All he tried to do was give an honest, human look at an
unscientific sampling of Russians, and that’s just what he’s done. … Americans
see themselves and their countrymen in these Russians. … The show gives us
clear portraits of people recognizable from everyone’s lives – the
cigarette-puffing antiestablishment juvenile; the proud, ornery older folks,
lecturing about the past and warning about the future; the unsophisticated
laborer, whose common-sense appraisal of world affairs shows more insight than
an embassyful of diplomats… a clear look at another nation.”
Thomas B. Bierbaum, “VARIETY” – July 30, 1984
'VIDEO FROM RUSSIA'
June 12, 1985 By WALTER GOODMANhttp://www.nytimes.com/1985/06/12/arts/video-from-russia.html
LAST year, an American film maker, Dimitri Devyatkin, took his cameras to the Soviet Union and talked to people in the streets of six cities - Moscow, Kiev, Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Leningrad and Volgograd. The result, ''Video From Russia: The People Speak,'' can be seen tonight at 8 on cable television's Arts and Entertainment network.
The interviews are done in Russian and translated. We are told by the narrator, Margot Kidder, they were conducted spontaneously; no official permission was sought or obtained, and there were no obstacles to taking the film out of the country. As it turned out, the authorities had nothing to worry about.
Wherever the camera crew goes -a farmers' market, an exhibition of arms, a disco, an amusement park, a children's playground, a church service - the people interviewed call for peace and friendship, usually in that order. Most express admiration for America and displeasure with the Reagan Administration, which, they say, is promoting war between the two countries. Several recall the hardships of World War II and speak of the horrors of nuclear war. The people are generally attractive, even the plain-looking bride who wants the wedding photographer to do something about her double chin, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity, but they do have a way of saying identical things in nearly identical language.
The few exceptions to the peace-and-friendship refrain are a group of self-identified ''punks,'' who declare, in unexpectedly philosophical jargon, that they are alienated because no society in the world offers them the freedom to be themselves, and a couple of young men who would like to go to America because in Russia they have to stand in line to buy things, but in America ''you just take it.''
The most revealing moments are the awkward ones: a man is stopped by the police after being interviewed, and Mr. Devyatkin intercedes for him. A woman demands what right the crew has to be interviewing children, and a mother pulls her 10-year-old daughter away as she begins to respond to questions. Some people decline to say anything; ''I don't know, I'm afraid,'' one woman mumbles, and hurries away.
''The People Speak'' makes a colorful travelogue, capturing scenes and faces of daily life in cities that still hold considerable fascination for Americans. The bits of narration tend toward the ingenuous: Miss Kidder reports, for example, that after the Revolution, the Communists discouraged religion, but now worshipers are permitted to attend Russian Orthodox services without official interference, a summary that does not quite do justice to the complicated relations between the Soviet Government and the Orthodox Church.
In general, the pictures offer more than the words. As person after person uses the same few words to describe relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, viewers may conclude that they are hearing echoes, not voices. ''The Soviet Union and America are not friends,'' says a 12-year-old, ''because the Soviet Union does not want a war and America does.'' Where can he have gotten that idea? In the interests of peace and friendship perhaps, Mr. Devyatkin does not press very hard, but in one case he asks a young woman who has stated her displeasure with Mr. Reagan why she feels that way. She pauses, seemingly perplexed, then replies, ''It's what I see so much on TV.''
International Herald Tribune -- September 28, 1984 Vox Populi, Filmed in Soviet Streets By Vicky Elliott