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Born: Sosnitsa, Ukraine, Russia, 12 September 1894.
Died: Moscow, Russia, 25 November 1956.

Alexander Dovzhenko (JPG, 16 KB)

Ukrainian Soviet director and writer. Trained as a teacher, Dovzhenko worked as a civil servant and diplomat, then studied painting in Munich and became a newspaper cartoonist. He began film work in Odessa in 1926, directing the comedies Vasya-reformator / Vasya the Reformer (his first feature film) and Yagodka lyubvi / The Fruit of Love, and the thriller Sumka dipkur'era / The Diplomatic Bag. His major films, beginning with Zvenigora (1928), are characterized by a unique combination of lyricism, social commentary, gentle satire and powerful echoes of Ukrainian folklore. Arsenal (1929) was his first film to achieve widespread recognition outside the Ukraine. His next film, Zemlya / The Earth (1930), a highly poeticized version of collectivization and a powerful evocation of nature and landscape, made his international reputation. His first sound film, Ivan (1932), traced the transformation of the hero from an unenlightened peasant to a committed Communist shock worker against the background of the construction of the Dnieper dam, one of the key projects of the first Five Year Plan. After this Dovzhenko's career went downhill, as he became little more than a loyal "servant of the state." Aerograd (1935) affirmed his faith in the future of the Soviet Far East; Shchors (1939), set in the Civil War, was made at Stalin's suggestion as a "Ukrainian Chapayev" and won a State Prize in 1941. Osvobozhdenie / Liberation (1940) celebrated the reunification of a western Ukraine with Ukraine proper following the Nazi-Soviet pact, while Bitva za nashu sovetskuyu Ukrainu / The Battle for Our Soviet Ukraine (1943) and Pobeda na pravoberezhnoi Ukraine / Victory on the Ukrainian Right Bank (1945) dealt with World War II. A number of Dovzhenko's unfilmed scripts were later made by his widow Yulia Solntseva. Dovzhenko also taught at VGIK (Vsesoyuznyi gosudarstvennyi institut kinematografii / All-Union State Cinema Institute) and wrote articles on film.

Richard Taylor, Encylopedia of European Cinema

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