Iosif Kheyfits

Active - 1935 - 1989  |   Born - Dec 17, 1905   |   Died - Apr 25, 1995   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

With films such as Baltic Deputy (1937) and Member of the Government (1940), filmmaker/screenwriter Josef Heifitz and his long-time collaborator Alexander Zarkhi became known as the forefathers of Soviet cinema's "historic realism movement." Up until WW II, Heifitz had also been regarded as one of Russia's most prominent Jewish artists. A native of Minsk, Heifitz moved to St. Petersburg in the 1920s to study. The city would remain his homebase for the rest of his life. He began a lifelong affiliation with Len Films Studios in 1928. There, Heifitz honed his directorial skills by co-directing a pair of short films. The following year Heifitz teamed up with Zarkhi. Their earliest films include Wind in the Face (1930), My Homeland (1933), and Hot Money (1935). Heifitz and Zarkhi would make films together for 20 years. Their last collaborative effort, Vo Imya Zhizni/In the Name of Life, was made in 1947. Around that time Stalin launched his "cosmopolitan campaign" in which he attempted to force all "foreigners" (with a special emphasis on Jewish people) out of the Soviet Union. As both were Jewish, Heifitz and Zarkhi stayed out of the public eye. Heifitz did not reappear on the film scene until after Stalin died. He subsequently continued directing films until 1980. His best-known film from his solo period may well be Dama S Sobachkoy/Lady with a Dog (1959) which earned a prize at Cannes.