Black Russians

Kara Lynch’s sometimes thoughtful 117-minute video documentary about black people living in Russia takes on a fascinating subject, though it’s periodically handicapped by a diffuse focus (an overreliance on intercutting between sound bites of mainly unrelated black individuals) and incomplete research (my hopes of learning something substantial about the Russian careers of Paul Robeson and the lesser-known Wayland Ruddwhose Russian acting career srarted in Lev Kuleshov’s The Great Consolerweren’t met). Lynch interviews and follows the shifting fortunes of several black or semiblack individuals from North America, Africa, and the Caribbean, and, not surprisingly, their experiences are extremely varied; some are students currently studying abroad and some (including an eloquent Russian poet) are the offspring of black and Russian parents who got together in the 30s. (In my preview copy, the names of all the interviewees were perversely occluded by a timer code, but I assume the general audience will be luckier.)The forms and expressions of Russian race prejudice are monitored with some sensitivity for nuance, and the archival footage, though sufficiently all-over-the-place to contribute to the cluttered effect, holds one’s interest throughout. (JR)

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