October 29, 2008

Weekly CEERES news roundup!

The New York Times did an excellent piece on Moscow's mayor Luzhkov and his propensity for creating foreign policy. They followed it up by translating many of the comments the post received on their Russian language blog and picked out some specifically to write a follow-up article talking about how Russians feel about Luzhkov.

Georgia's President Saakashvili announced he would be replacing the Prime Minister. (BBC)

Monday, the IMF said it would offer loans to both Ukraine and Hungary as the two Eastern European countries have both been hit hard by the global credit crisis. (BBC)

While not completely current, two weeks ago Azerbaijan's president Aliyev was re-elected with 89% of the vote. Many of the opposition parties boycotted this election, which caused many international observers to remark on the lack of real competition. (BBC, EurasiaNet)

This piece that the BBC did on Albania's "sworn virgins" is very interesting and offers an interesting look at a phenomenon that's dying out.

October 22, 2008

Steve LeVine at Chicago again. Russia, Georgia, and the Rest

About a year ago, The University of Chicago hosted journalist Steve LeVine, now senior foreign affairs correspondent for Business Week, when his book "The Oil and the Glory" came out. That book dealt with the history of the former Soviet region through the lens of the jockeying for control of oil and natural gas. (You can view last year's presentation on the UChicago CHIASMOS website).

Steve Levine joins us again tonight to discuss the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia, the reasons for it, the consequences affecting the U.S., and some projections on the future of the region and international relations. When we first conceived of this talk with Steve, not long after the early August military conflict between Russia and Georgia, our effort was to do something timely on the conflict, and what it meant circa September 2008. We entitled the talk "Putin's Labyrinth: What Russia won in Georgia; Why the U.S. Will Continue to Lose." The gist being that the U.S.'s inattention to the region was an enabling factor for Russia to launch this sort of reprisal. In the period since then, the global climate of investment has taken a nose-dive, and the price of oil has precipitously declined, perhaps providing new economic and diplomatic avenues for the U.S. to influence and secure the region. Perhaps a better subtitle for tonight's talk would be "Why the U.S. May Continue to Lose." This of course will not be found out until a new U.S. presidential administration takes over.

If you're curious about where this discussion leads, come see Steve LeVine tonight at 6pm in the Home Room of International House at The University of Chicago.

This talk is also coming out of Steve's new book "Putin's Labyrinth: Spies, Murder, and the Dark Heart of the New Russia." This books looks at the new displined Russian power structure under Putin through the prism of shadowy murders.

October 6, 2008

44th Chicago International Film Festival

It's that time of year again, time for the International Film Festival! This year there are some great films from the CEERES region that we'd like you to be aware of.

Like last year, we've put together a list (for the full schedule visit chicagofilmfestival.org):

ABSURDISTAN (France/Azerbaijan)

Veit Helmer

It's 1968, and flower children Catherine, Yves, and Herve are dreaming of a world free from factories, the draft, and the bitter May revolts. Desperately in love and painfully idealistic, they convince several of their friends to join them in starting a commune in the countryside. Twenty years later, with communism collapsing and AIDS exploding, Catherine and Yves' children must deal with the fallout from the free love generation. WORlD CINEMA 88 min Russian with English subtitles

10/23/08 06:15:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/25/08 06:45:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan


Jerzy Skolimowski

Internationally acclaimed director Jerzy Skolimowski's (Moonlighting) first film in 17 years is an alternately zany and pitch-black portrait of Leon's madcap courtship of his neighbor, Anna. Leon's oddball behavior—like crushing sleeping pills into Anna's sugar so he can snoop through her apartment smelling things—is somehow endearing until we learn the dark secret behind his attraction. 87 Min. Polish with English subtitles.

10/26/08 07:30:00 PM AMC River East 21

10/27/08 08:00:00 PM AMC River East 21


Vassilis Douvlis

Ilias and his wife Eleni have returned to Greece after many years in Germany. Ilias feels like a foreigner in his home village, and life in the country is killing Eleni's spirit. The arrival of Albanian migrant Petros is the first in a chain of events that will change their lives. With an engrossing love triangle as his foundation, Douvlis touches on the perils of identity and the shifting definition of home experienced by immigrants around the world. 98 min. Greek with English subtitles.

10/24/08 04:00:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan
10/26/08 03:30:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/27/08 05:50:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

KATYN (Poland)

Andrzej Wajda

In 1939, more than 12,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia were executed by the Soviet army. Once the mass graves were discovered by the Nazis in 1943, the Soviets began an extensive campaign to cover up their involvement in the massacre. Katyn´ is a courageous film that tells the story of both the victims and those left behind: the survivors who became complicit in the cover-up, and those who refused to deny the truth. 118 min.

Polish, Russian, German with English subtitles.

10/19/08 12:45:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/25/08 01:15:00 PM AMC River East 21


Anna Melikyan

An Amélie-like fairy tale rich in a mesmerizing magic (literally) all its own, The Mermaid's heart is Alisa, a lonely little girl from a seaside town who takes a rebellious vow of silence at the age of five. Approaching her 18th birthday, Alisa is forced to relocate to Moscow, where a chance encounter with a free-spirited salesman of lunar real estate inspires her to speak again—and compete for his affection. 114 min. Russian with English subtitles.

10/22/08 08:20:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/28/08 08:15:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

NATIVE DANCER / BAKSY (Russia/Kazakhstan/France/Germany)

Gulshat Omarova

The award-winning director of Schizo returns with the absorbing story of a Kazakh baksy (shaman), Aidai, who has the power to heal people. She derives her power from the land she lives on, owned by wealthy businessman Batyr. But when the mafia and local authorities force Aidai from her home and build a motel on Batyr's land, a surprising chain of events springs from the powerful and mysterious woman. 87 min. Russian, Kazakh with English subtitles.

10/18/08 02:15:00 PM AMC River East 21

10/21/08 08:40:00 PM AMC River East 21


Vladimír Michálek

Based on the award-winning novel by Emil Hakl, this candid and revealing relationship study unfolds during an often bittersweet and untamed conversation between a seventysomething father and his middle-aged son. The two men—who love, respect, and hate one another all at once—take to the streets of Prague for their monthly visit, moving with a gentle sweep through their humorous collective memories and careening toward newfound revelations. 112 min. Czech with English subtitles.

10/25/08 12:30:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/27/08 06:10:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

SNOW / SNIJEG (Bosnia-Herzegovina/Germany/France/Iran)

Aida Begic

The year is 1997, and the post-war village of Slavno is occupied by a mere handful of residents, mostly women. Some are widows. Others have had their children executed by the nearby Bosnian Serbs. Winner of the critics' week grand prize at Cannes, Snow picks up where most other war films leave off, capturing mournful, everyday lives with such attentiveness and regard that it becomes less a film of politics and more a film of touching fellowship. 99 min. Bosnian with English subtitles.

10/25/08 03:00:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/26/08 06:00:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan


Seyfi Teoman

Ten-year-old Ali is getting bullied at school. Older brother Veysel is looking to ditch military school for business school. Austere pop Mustafa disapproves, but uncle Hasan is all for it. Meanwhile, mom Guler is sure that her husband is having an affair. These minor family tensions come to a head one summer when Mustafa suddenly falls ill while away on a business trip. Named best Turkish film at the Istanbul Film Festival. 92 min. Turkish with English subtitles.

10/23/08 08:40:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/24/08 06:30:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan


Róbert Alföldi

Estranged from her daughter and cut off from the outside world, ex-actress Rebeka Weér lives with her deeply troubled son, Andor. Verbally abused by Rebeka since his childhood, Andor becomes a man who must learn to either live with their strained, yet sometimes tender, relationship or leave that suffocating environment behind to pursue love elsewhere. Somber, haunting, and erotic, Tranquility tells a story of self-destruction within the realm of a bizarre mother-son relationship. 108 min. Hungarian with English subtitles.

10/20/08 08:40:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan

10/21/08 08:30:00 PM AMC 600 N. Michigan


Karen Shakhnazaro

The 1970s marked the rise of communism and the peak of power in the Soviet Union. To teenager Sergey Narbekov, it meant friends, booze, girls, and The Rolling Stones. The Vanished Empire is an honest portrayal of four young friends transitioning from their late teens into adulthood. They live hard and love hard, giving no regard to the collapse of their country. 105 min. Russian with English subtitles.

10/19/08 12:30:00 PM ACM River East 21

10/20/08 06:10:00 PM ACM River East 21