Gleb Panfilov

Active - 1968 - 2010  |   Born - Dec 21, 1934   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

Filmmaker Gleb Panfilov was born in Magnitogorsk in the Ural Mountains. Originally trained as a chemical engineer with a degree from the Urals Polytechnic Institute, he started out supervising a factory. Inspired after viewing Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes Are Flying in 1957, Panfilov became fascinated with cinema and two years later created his own documentary, Join Our Ranks. It received favorable notice and Panfilov began to study at the state film school (VGIK) via correspondence. He began attending the Moscow school in person in 1963 and became a protégé of filmmaker Yuli Raizman. Panfilov made his feature-film debut in 1968 with V Ognye Broda Nyet (No Passage Through the Fire). The film starred his wife, Inna Churikova, who would staff all of his subsequent films, and contained themes that looked frankly at the relationship between Soviet people and art that would also appear in subsequent ventures. V Ognye Broda Nyet received a Grand Prix at Locarno in 1969 and Churikova was awarded Best Actress there. It was an auspicious start and Panfilov followed it up with the internationally successful Nachalo (A Girl From the Factory; aka The Debut or The Beginning), a tale that interwove the life of Joan of Arc with that of a factory girl chosen to play the martyr in a factory-sponsored film. A woman again played the protagonist in his 1975 film I Wish to Speak (Proshu Slova; aka May I Have the Floor), the story of a female mayor who finds herself having to struggle through rough bureaucratic seas. Panfilov's 1979 film The Theme (Tema) offered commentary on the effect of political bureaucracy on the promotion of mediocre art and the repression of creativity. It was shown once in a heavily censored form and then banned until 1986. The following year, Tema won the Golden Bear and the International Critics Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Ironically, during the years that the film was shelved, the subsequent films of Panfilov seemed to mirror Tema's thesis and he created mediocre film adaptations of popular literature. However, Panfilov returned to form in 1990 with a new adaptation of Gorky's novel Mother.