Motion Picture Director. One of the giants of early Soviet Cinema. His silent era masterpiece "Earth" (1930) has long been cited as one of the greatest films ever made. In this ostensible tribute to collective farming, Dovzhenko did away with traditional narrative techniques and created a pantheist philosophical poem about mankind's oneness with nature. Its radical non-linear style and unique visual beauty were influencing moviemakers 40 years later. Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko was born in Sonitsia, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. The son of illiterate Cossacks, he was largely educated at the urging of his grandfather. A heart condition kept him from military service during World War I and the Civil War, but he supported the Bolsheviks and joined the Communist Party around 1921. He held minor diplomatic posts in Warsaw and Berlin before moving to Kiev in 1923, where he worked as a cartoonist and illustrator. A growing interest in mass culture led him to the cinema as a writer in 1926, even though he had seen very few films; this allowed him to approach the medium with a fresh mind, free from preconceptions and influences. After apprenticing as a director with the two-reel comedy "Love's Berry" (1926) and the commercial features "Vasya the Reformer" (co-directed, 1926) and "The Diplomatic Pouch" (1927), Dovzhenko revealed himself as a remarkably original talent with "Zvenigora" (1927), a folkloric Ukrainian epic. After its premiere the leading Soviet directors, Eisenstein and Pudovkin, welcomed Dovzhenko as their artistic equal, allegedly by joining him in an all-night drinking spree. He achieved even greater success with "Arsenal" (1928), a striking account of the crucial Civil War year 1918 that was both a convincing propaganda document and a hymn to the human spirit. "Earth", completed two years later, fell victim to the harsh Stalinist policies that had begun to stifle the country's motion picture industry. It was denounced as confusing and, worse, "counter-revolutionary", was heavily cut by the censors and given only a limited release, though it was universally hailed abroad. "Ivan" (1932), Dovzhenko's first talkie, was also his last truly personal work. His other films are "Aerograd" (1935) and the biopics "Schors" (1939) and "Michurin" (1949). During World War II he assisted in the making of wartime documentaries and then worked as an occasional screenwriter and production supervisor. Although Dovzhenko seemed committed to the ideals of the revolution, he was too strong a creative individualist to win acceptance in the Soviet Cinema under Stalin's oppressive rule. As a consequence he directed only nine features and one short in 30 years and his career was littered with unrealized projects. "I often think how my life has been wasted", he wrote in his diary. He died of a heart attack at 62. After his death the Soviet government renamed the Kiev movie studio the Dovzhenko Studio in his honor, and his widow and longtime assistant, Yulia Solntseva, was able to direct several films from his unproduced scripts, memorably "Poem of the Sea" (1958).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
Yuliya Ippolitnovna Solntseva