June 1, 2000

Marina Goldovskaya's Documentary Salon Series Helps to Build A Filmmaking Community

For the past three years Marina Goldovskaya, renowned documentarian and professor at the UCLA School of Film and Television, has organized—in association with the IDA—a forum for documentary-makers called The Documentary Salon Series. This program has shown documentaries from around the world to both the public and students.

Historically, artists and great thinkers have met for hundreds of years in salons to share ideas and discuss their new works. The salons of Europe were particularly well-known for the brilliant minds that participated and helped each other in their artistic efforts. Goldovskaya also had the benefit of salons during her 25 years of making documentaries for Soviet television and teaching at the University of Moscow. Documentaries from all over the world were shown exclusively to her and her colleagues during that time. As a result, a tight-knit community was formed for the exchange of ideas and feedback.

When Goldovskaya came to Los Angeles, she was some what dismayed to find that the local documentary-makers were mostly "lone wolves" working completely independently with no knowledge of each other. Also, her students felt isolated and lamented the lack of a place to meet the important documentary makers. She immediately saw the need to build a true documentary community. From that small idea came The Documentary Salon Series.

ln 1991 Goldovskaya seized an open schedule on Monday nights at the UCLA James Bridges Theater in Melnitz Hall to showcase documentaries not often seen. As she sees it, The Documentary Salon Series is a place to screen controversial and unconventional films, and create a community to exchange ideas and create discourse around them. Some of the films included have been: Anne Makepeace's Baby lt's You, Eric Trules' The Poet and the Con, Flavyn Feller Mendozea's The Amazing, Normal Story, two films by Spencer Nakasaki—Don Bonus and Kelly Loves Tony, Simcha Jacobovici's Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies & the American Dream; and Goldovskaya's own The Prince is Back, the story of the unbreakable human spirit and achieving one's dream against all odds.

Since its beginning, The Salon has developed from a monthly screening and discussion series into a program of retrospectives, receptions and workshops open to students, documentary makers and the community at large. With the help of her teaching assistant Vivian Umino, Goldovskaya has managed to attract an amazing array of famous documentary-makers who have participated in The Salon.

ln The Beginning

In October 1997,The Salon began with the screening of Shomali Bose's UCLA graduate thesis film Lifting the Veil, an hour-long exploration of the effects of economic globalization in India. Goldovskaya chose the film for the premiere event of The Salon because it depicts a culture unknown to American audiences and its screening represented the integration of students' work into the real world of professional documentary filmmaking. Thus, it fulfilled her goals of showing new works, providing a forum for her students and exposing the audience to other cultural experiences. This first Salon set the tone for the programs to come.

In Fall 1998, UCLA and the IDA, in association with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive, screened classic documentaries on which Richard Leacock and Robert Drew worked, including Louisiana Story (1948), Moana (1926), Primary (1960) and On The Road With Duke Ellington (1967), among others. This was an incredible opportunity to witness interaction between the filmmakers, whose documentaries have spanned the 20th Century, and join in the public discussion as well.

One month later, George Stoney, another legendary American filmmaker whose works include All My Babies and How the Myth was Made, presented workshops which attracted a large audience. Also in 1998, Goldovskaya presented The Zoo by Jaw-Chyang Terng, May Tomorrow Be Better by Anna Rosa Ramos, A New Normal by Christopher O-Dea and The Over Stay by Ann Kaneko. Spring of that year brought Albert Maysles to UCLA for workshops and his unique 13-film retrospective, including Salesman, Grey Gardens, Meet Marlon Brando, Orson Welles—Spain, What's Happening!, The Beatles in the USA, A Visit with Truman Capote and Gimme Shelter. The house was packed for each of the screenings and even now this retrospective has remained in the memories of the local film community.

ln October 1999, Peter Forgacs, award-winning Hungarian filmmaker, screened four of his latest films, including The Danube Exodus (1998) and Free Fall (1996) and gave two workshops. Forgacs shared the secrets of his use of digital technology to transform old movies from private archives into beautiful and mesmerizing portraits of Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. The Salon also screened several exciting and famous films from abroad, including a groundbreaking retrospective of Taiwanese documentaries organized by the Chinese Taipei Film Archive. This retrospective was made possible after Goldovskaya served on the jury of the International Documentary Film Festival in Taipei and made many contacts and friends. Out of those friendships came a wonderful two-day retrospective of seven films by Taiwanese filmmakers and a reception sponsored by the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office.

The Salon Today

The Salon kicked of 2000 with a screening of Jennifer Fox's American Love Story, followed by a retrospective of the works of Nick Broomfield, best known for his documentaries Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) and Kurt ond Courtney (1998). Broomfield attended several of the screenings to answer questions and discuss his work with the audience. He also participated in an open-to-the-public workshop, where he was unusually candid about how he works—including sharing such practical advice on what release forms he uses and how to get people to sign them.

In addition to the works of famous documentary filmmakers, the best documentaries by UCLA students are exposed for the Los Angeles audience. Recently, Goldovskaya organized a screening of Nobody Knows My Name, a digital video documentary by Rachel Raimist, presenting an intimate journey into the lives of women who "live hip hop" and try to uplift themselves. That screening was followed by a very lively reception where the women featured in the film performed.

And what does Godovskaya have in store for us in 2001 ? A retrospective of Russian films that has been in the works for three years, organized by none other than a true aficionado of the genre. Achieving one's dream against all odds is really how Professor Marina Goldovskaya's life can be described. She was bom in the Soviet Union and managed to carve out a place for herself despite the restrictions placed on her by the government's system. She earned two PhDs and had a respected career in Soviet television. After perestroika she came to the United States, first as a visiting professor at UC San Diego and now as a tenured professor at UCLA. No small achievement by anyone's standards.

Goldovskaya has strong opinions about what makes a good documentary-maker. She organized The Salon "to develop good taste and an understanding of the craft." But if no one participates, it can't be a community. To receive an invitation to upcoming events at The Documentary Salon Series please email your address to docsolon@ entelnitz.ucla.edu.

 

Irene Nachreiner is writer/producer currently looking for distribution for her recently completed documentary, Down but not Out: Living with Chronic Pain.

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