«Jewish Observer»
February 2002
5762 Shvat

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He says that he doesn't like cinema. One can believe him because he is a person who has worked in the cinematography for 43 years and knows all about "the most important kind of art". He has deserved the right to think anything about it.

He also says that he came to work at the Kiev studio of documentary films quite incidentally. One has to believe him again. In 1954, when Rafail Nakhmanovich graduated from the department of fine arts of the Kiev Theatre Institute, he couldn't dream about the career of a free specialist in theatre studies. There were still fresh memories of the pogrom campaigns against critics-cosmopolitans (in the theatre as well). That's why he had to take the offered job in the studio and to leave his dream about free theatre studies forever. He wanted to make films, as they were later called author's films. He even became one of the founders of this genre, which demands sincerity and conviction. He is the scriptwriter and the producer of dozens of films. The best history pages of the Kiev documentary studio are connected with his name, as well as the worst ones.

I mean those films that are forbidden for the screen. There were a lot of such films during the work of Rafail Aronovich Nakhmanovich at the Kiev studio.

Only for that he has the right to dislike the cinema. The mechanism of prohibition usually began from the order for the film, more precisely, from choosing the topic where the author's censorship came into effect automatically. Everybody knew everything and didn't touch absolutely "impassable" topics. But even a topic about fighting criminals could be "impassable". When shooting a film, its montage and other professional operations are over, the period of ideological censorship used to begin. On the way to the screen one had to get permission from too many organizations. Every such organization could cancel the decision of the previous one. So the permission of the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine Lutak could be cancelled by the first secretary of the Central Committee Shelest. Even if the film had two permissions it could be "killed" in Moscow. This happened to the film about the struggle against crime "Subject for discussion".

Rafail Aronovich can't deny that there were bright days in cinematography too. I do not mean prizes and victories at the festivals though it's also important. His life and work at the studio gave him a lot of friends among them is Victor Platonovich Nerkasov. They became close friends, working at the film "To the unknown soldier" and remained friends forever. It was very difficult because at that time the famous writer Victor Nerkasov was in the hopeless conflict with the ideological overseers, with all possible consequences described in the novel by Geliy Snegiryov "A novel-denunciation", which was first published last year. By the way, the writer Geliy Snegiryov, who worked in the same studio, was invited by Nakhmanovich to work at the film "Letters to the alive".

It wasn't a mere coincidence that all of them were in Babiy Yar in 1966 during the sad spontaneous meeting devoted to the 25th anniversary of Kiev Jews shooting. Victor Nerkasov and Ivan Dzuba were speaking there and a group of cinema men headed by Nakhmanovich was making a film. All of them didn't avoid consequences - all of them got registered in the KGB. As we know, manuscripts do not burn. We can hope that this is right for films too, especially when they are in the hands of such not indifferent people like Rafail Nakhmanovich. We are obliged to him for having kept those precious materials that were later used (in the times of perestroika) for such films as "Victor Nekrasov", "How we get our future", "Boris Chichibabin's confession", "The Jewish cemetery".

"The Jewish cemetery" was the first film-story about the ruins of Jewish life left by the Holocaust and Stalin's repression on the territory of the former USSR. Nakhmanovich shows the amount of losses and makes the spectator answer the question: "Is it enough strength left to revive the roots and just to live?" The answer is not obvious yet.

"I don't like cinema" - we began our article with these words said by Rafail Nakhmanovich but the quotation wasn't full. In full it looks like this: "I don't like cinema, I like literature". This gives us hope that on his 75th anniversary Rafail Nakhmanovich will come to the subject of his love and will give it his memoirs. He has a lot to recollect and he knows how to do this. We can only congratulate him on his 75th anniversary and wish him good health and creativity to realize his plans and invite him for his first publication in "Yegupets".


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© 2002 Jewish Confederation of Ukraine - www.jewukr.org