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Sergei Parajanov

Сергей Параджанов

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Sergei Parajanov (Armenian: Սերգեյ Փարաջանով; Russian: Серге́й Ио́сифович Параджа́нов; Georgian: სერგო ფარაჯანოვი; Ukrainian: Сергій Йо́сипович Параджа́нов; sometimes spelled Paradzhanov or Paradjanov; January 9, 1924 – July 20, 1990) was a Soviet film director and artist of Armenian descent who made significant contributions to Soviet cinematography through Ukrainian, Georgian, and Armenian cinema. He invented his own cinematic style, which was totally out of step with the guiding principles of socialist realism (the only sanctioned art style in the USSR). This, combined with his controversial lifestyle and behaviour, led Soviet authorities to repeatedly persecute and imprison him, and suppress his films.

Although he started professional film-making in 1954, Parajanov later disowned all the films he made before 1965 as "garbage". After directing Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (renamed Wild Horses of Fire for most foreign distributions) Parajanov became something of an international celebrity and simultaneously a target of attacks from the system. Nearly all of his film projects and plans from 1965 to 1973 were banned, scrapped or closed by the Soviet film administrations, both local (in Kiev and Yerevan) and federal (Goskino), almost without discussion, until he was finally arrested in late 1973 on charges of rape, homosexuality and bribery. He was imprisoned until 1977, despite a pleas for pardon from various artists. Even after his release (he was arrested for the third and last time in 1982) he was a persona non grata in Soviet cinema. It was not until the mid-1980s, when the political climate started to relax, that he could resume directing. Still, it required the help of influential Georgian actor Dodo Abashidze and other friends to have his last feature films greenlighted. His health seriously weakened by four years in labor camps and nine months in prison in Tbilisi, Parajanov died of lung cancer in 1990, at a time when, after almost 20 years of suppression, his films were being featured at foreign film festivals. In January 1988, he said in an interview, "Everyone knows that I have three Motherlands. I was born in Georgia, worked in Ukraine and I'm going to die in Armenia." Sergei Parajanov is buried at Komitas Pantheon which is located in the city center of Yerevan.

Parajanov's films won prizes at Mar del Plata Film Festival, Istanbul International Film Festival, Nika Awards, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Sitges - Catalan International Film Festival, São Paulo International Film Festival and others.

Parajanov was born Sarkis Hovsepi Parajaniants (Սարգիս Հովսեփի Փարաջանյանց) to artistically gifted Armenian parents, Iosif Paradjanov and Siranush Bejanova, in Tbilisi, Georgia. (The family name of Parajaniants is attested by a surviving historical document at the Sergei Parajanov Museum in Yerevan.) He gained access to art from an early age. In 1945, he traveled to Moscow, enrolled in the directing department at the VGIK, one of the oldest and highly respected film schools in Europe, and studied under the tutelage of directors Igor Savchenko and Aleksandr Dovzhenko.

In 1948 he was convicted of homosexual acts (which were illegal at the time in the Soviet Union) with a MGB officer named Nikolai Mikava in Tbilisi. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released under an amnesty after three months. In video interviews, friends and relatives contest the truthfulness of anything he was charged with. They speculate the punishment may have been a form of political retaliation for his rebellious views.

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