This film follows the grandson of famed Russian-Jewish author Isaac Babel as he searches for answers to better understand the enigmatic man he never met. Babel's writings, considered masterpieces of Russian literature, challenged the reality of life under rising Soviet totalitarianism, leading to his execution as part of Stalin's purges in 1940.
Andrei Malaev-Babel journeys through locations deeply tied to the life and writings of his grandfather, where he confronts lingering traces of a turbulent history that echo in Babel's stories and in the climate and conflicts of today's Ukraine and Russia. With each stop, Andrei gets closer to the truth about his grandfather and the complex stories that he wrote with depth and hidden meaning.
Mentored by Maxim Gorky, Babel was thrust upon the international stage with Red Cavalry, a bold war narrative, followed by Odessa Stories. His many short stories and stage plays examined Soviet society with a critical eye. Woven into the film are excerpts from Babel's writings read by actor Liev Schreiber, coupled with unique, ethereal animations that serve to illustrate Babel's works.
Ultimately, through powerful interviews, including Babel's widow, and a painful examination of his formerly secret case file, Andrei learns more of the details of his grandfather's arrest, torture and execution. As the first American film crew allowed inside KGB archives, Andrei and the filmmakers gained unprecedented access to Babel's file. Chillingly, Andrei found his grandfather's last act of writing -- not a hoped for lost manuscript or personal letter -- but rather a shaky signature officially acknowledging his death sentence.
The search for Babel shows that although the author was executed, his works still resonate powerfully with lessons for today.
"Introduces Babel (who is revered in Russia) to the Western world, while also bringing his words to life and making the author...relevant to the modern world. An eye-opening look at the plight of a man who criticised the party he was loyal to and paid the ultimate price. A timeless warning to all of the dangers of any totalitarian regime." - Paul Carson, Examiner.com
"An exquisite...blockbuster documentary." - Vitaly Mansky, President, Artdocfest
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