The Desert of Forbidden Art

Damn PBS. Two nights in a row! First, we get back from Explosions in the Sky Monday night and I’m all beeeeeeddddduh but noooo, Charlie Rose is talking about Libya with Bernard-Henri Lévy and shit. I didn’t know B-H was a journalist, only familiar with him as a “philosopher.”  I was all, “Why is he on a serious news program talking about serious news?” but apparently he’s all up in some Libya shit.

Sorry…I haven’t had my proverbial cup of coffee yet this morning. So anyways, having just been asked earlier that day to “explain what’s going on Libya” I decided I better watch – you can watch, too. Did you know all this is being called “Arab Spring?” (Despite Tunisia, pointed to as the starting crack in the facade, happening back in November). See also, Prague Spring. Not every original, whoever! What’s next, the Satin Revolution?

Last night I was watching BBC World News, as I do, all the footage of the Middle East thinking, “Why is nobody commenting on the sore lack of women in all this?” Every so often some Egypt footage shows women but overall, the protests just happen to also be highlighting the abjectly anti-woman culture/society that is the Middle East. Granted, if I were a woman I’d most likely not think it is my place to be out there, or I’d be scared for my life, but still. I just think it’s interesting that I haven’t seen or read any comments on the overwhelmingly male…ness. Moving on.

Stunning. Shocking. Surprising. Gorgeous. Original. Devastating. These are the words coming to my tongue as I watched The Desert of Forbidden Art last night (please go to the link to read more).

Just a stunning portrayal of, well, the god damn human spirit, really. Telling inspectors that these scenes are of Nazi concentration camps and getting The State to fund an artist’s work of her own time in a Soviet gulag…beautiful, warm scenes of peasant life rarely seen outside of the country. Long story short, there’s an art museum in Uzbekistan, one of the poorest regions of the former Soviet Union. It houses thousands of works by Soviet artists, most of them unseen because at the time of their creation, any art deemed not all for the people meant zee artiste went straight to a concentration camp. Or was shot for crimes against the people. And they’re amazing. Even now, the museum is threatened by the Uzbek government and local Islamcis.

“Gorgeous to look at and horrible in its revelations, The Desert of Forbidden Art achieves what documentaries do best, uncovering and exploring a world that the viewer probably had no idea existed.” – THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Political science and history students can contemplate the fate of art and artists in an authoritarian system. Art history students, meanwhile, will be intrigued by this heretofore unknown expression of the Russian avant-garde.” – EDUCATIONAL MEDIA REVIEWS ONLINE

“The Desert of Forbidden Art provides a dramatic examination of the power of art against forces of repressive tyranny. It is a fascinating work that will ennoble art lovers, students of Russian history, and anyone who believes in the power of culture.” – FILM THREAT

Here’s the preview for the viewing I saw, on Independent Lens, and find out when it might be playing on your local PBS.



2 Responses to “The Desert of Forbidden Art”

  1. N Says:

    I love PBS…. fell asleep on the couch with pbs on last week one night. news hour music kept playing all through the night, I almost memorized that day’s newscast. BBC news too. Charlie Rose repeated, as well as T.S. It was comforting just listening to smart earnest people all night long in the background.

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