Soviet filmmaker Grigori Chukhrai (pronounced: "chookh-RYE") was one of his country's premiere directors and was instrumental in winning international acclaim for Soviet films in the 1960s. Born in Melitopol, Ukraine, Chukhrai served as a paratrooper during WWII, was wounded five times, and earned multiple medals for his courage. After the war he studied at the Soviet State Film School (VGIK) where he was mentored by such renowned filmmakers as Mikhail Romm and Sergei Yutkevich. Upon his graduation from VGIK in 1953, Chukhrai worked as an assistant director and then as a second unit director at the Kiev Film Studio. Since 1955 he worked at the Moscow Film Studio where he made an impressive feature debut with Sorok Pervyy (The Forty-First) in 1956. The film won the Special Prize at the 1957 Cannes Festival. His 1959 film, Ballada O Soldate (Ballad of a Soldier) won two awards at Cannes, successfully played all over the world, and received an Oscar nomination. A simple and humane tale of a young soldier on a brief leave, the picture was remarkably different from the heavy-handed Soviet war films of the previous era and marked the period that became known as Krushchev's "thaw." Chukhrai's next film Chistoye Nebo (Clear Skies) (1961) was one of the first to touch upon the theme of Stalin's repressions after the war. The director's 1969 documentary Pamyat (Remembrance) was not well-received by the Soviet authorities and Chukhrai did not direct another movie until 1978. Instead he concentrated on teaching film direction at VGIK and working as the creative director of the experimental film unit at the Mosfilm Studio. His subsequent films Tryasina (Quagmire) (1978) and La Vita e Bella (Life Is Beautiful) (1980) -- the latter is a co-production with Italy which should not be confused with Roberto Benigni's award-winning movie of the same name -- failed to achieve the resonance of his early work. The director's last film was Ya Nauchu Vas Mechtat (I Will Teach You to Dream) (1985), a project about the distinguished Soviet filmmaker Mark Donskoy, which Chukhrai agreed to complete for another director, Yuri Shvyrev. In 1994 Chukhrai was awarded a Nika, Russia's equivalent of the Oscar, for his career, and he also received a special award from the President of Russia in 1996.