Alim (1926): a taste of ‘Ukrainian Hollywood’

There are so many great silent film screenings in London right now, and I trust you are keeping up with the nationwide listings run by our friends the Silent Film Calendar. But I had to pause a moment and let you know about this event – a real one-off.

The Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image is showing a newly restored, but rarely shown Ukrainian silent film on 29 April, with a live score by Crimean Tatar folk and jazz guitarist Enver Izmaylov and an introduction by scholar Dr Olena Palko.

The film, Alim (1926), is a stirring Crimean tale of adventure and robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

“Alim (Georgi Tasin, Ukraine/USSR, 1926, 61mins) is an adventure film reminiscent of an American western. It is based on a Crimean Tatar legend, turned into a play by the repressed Crimean Tatar writer Ipchi Ümer and adapted for screen by a famous Soviet Ukrainian writer Mykola Bazhan. It tells a story of a nineteenth-century Crimean Tatar Robin Hood, Alim, fighting against rich people.”

Alim was made in late 1925, by All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration (VUFKU), often known as ‘Ukrainian Hollywood’’ The studio released nearly 150 films between 1922 and 1930, including , among which are Ukrainian classics such as Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s Earth (1930).

Although production on Alim began with the blessing of the Soviet indigenisation (korenizatsiia) policy, and it was a great success at home and across Europe with screenings in Berlin and Paris, the film was banned in 1937 and there was an order for all copies to be destroyed. This restoration premiered in 2014 as a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars.

BIMI is pleased to show this film as an example of the little-known Soviet Ukrainian cinematic avant-garde cinema of the silent era. Also, as the film is set in Crimea, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014, the organisers hope to draw attention to the plight of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian people during the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Please spread the word far and wide.

• Read more and book your free ticket here.

• Sadly I won’t be at this one, as I will be attending a silent film festival in the Arctic Circle, in Tromsø, Norway. Rest assured, I’ll be back here to tell you all about my adventures in the frozen north.

• Silent London will always be free to all readers. If you enjoy checking in with the site, including reports from silent film festivals, features and reviews, please consider shouting me a coffee on my Ko-Fi page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s