Gleb Osatinsky: Kovid made us stop and think

How a physicist from Kharkov became a metaphysical director in New York
Gleb Osatinsky became the only Russian-speaking graduate student at Columbia University to receive the prestigious Katherine Otto-Bernstein grant. He believes that his new film project with Ukraine will open a new page in the cooperation of American and Ukrainian filmmakers..
Gleb Osatinski was born in Kharkov, where he graduated from the Polytechnic University with a degree in «physics». In 1994 he moved with his family to the United States at the age of 22. Graduated from New York University (NYU) with a degree in «computer science and finance». Having worked for more than ten years on Wall Street as a financial analyst in various companies, Gleb made the decision to radically change his destiny and become a film director. He received his Bachelor of Arts from the Digital Film Academy of New York (DFA) and attended Adrienne Weiss’s Directing Workshop.
His short films have screened and won awards at several American and international film festivals. They were also shown on ARTE, PBS and others..
Short films by Gleb Osatinsky invite you to an unusual world where reality is combined with fantasy, and social recognition with metaphysics.
In his first tape «Constellation Pisces and the subconscious» (Pisces of an Unconscious Mind) Osatinsky weaves in an ironic phantasmagoria the theme of duality and flickering consciousness as a side effect of total alienation.
Constellation Pisces and the subconscious IN «House at the edge of the Galaxy» (The House at the Edge of the Galaxy») the little boy strikes up a friendship with a sociable alien who travels in time and gives him seeds from which real stars can grow. In the feed «Countable self» (The Quantified Self) family problems «read» advanced technologies, which does not prevent unbridled reflexes from entering the fatal game at a critical moment.
«Father» (Father) – a poignant visual essay about the critical moment of growing up, when a boy, in the face of the imminent departure to another world of a terminally ill father, must take on the burden of responsibility.
&# 171; Father&# 187; Latest short film «Strangers» (Outsiders) is based on documentary material. This is a dramatic sketch from the life of a young married couple of illegal immigrants..
&# 171; outsiders&# 187; Gleb Osatinsky via Skype from New York answered the questions of the correspondent of the Russian Service «Voices of America».
Oleg Sulkin: Gleb, in our preliminary conversation you said that you want to shoot a film-master’s degree from Columbia University in Ukraine.
Gleb Osatinsky: Yes it is. According to the plan, I have to finish my master’s degree by 2022. But now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, everything is likely to change..
OS: What the film will be about?
G.O .: This is a story that took place in the Soviet era in Ukraine, in the 1980s. In the story of the main character Yasha, two important topics for me are traced: the conflict of generations and the Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union. They are autobiographical. A lot is connected in it with my biography, with the history of my family. The story of people who cannot come to terms with what is happening, they are overwhelmed with resentment and resentment. By the way, the working title of the movie – «Resentment» (Resentment). I am busy with this project now. I’m also working on a film script «Mermaid parade» (Mermaids Parade), which we are writing with the writer and poet Helga Landauer, who also lives in New York. And also – moving. We have moved frequently in recent years.
O.S.: We – who is this?
G.O .: This is my family. Wife, daughter. We moved several times from New York City to «upstate» (New York State) and back. My parents live in a home where they are being helped because of their age and health conditions. Because of the covid, I haven’t seen them in eight months. But my wife’s parents who live in «upstate», we see constantly. And it is very good and important to see your family at a time like this..
O.S.: You already turned out to be an adult in America…

Gleb Osatinsky: Kovid made us stop and think

G.O .: Yes, I was 22 years old. On my first day in New York, I rode a subway and realized: this is my city. The world that opened up to me gave me a feeling of joy and freedom. It was very different from the world I lived in before.
OS: When you left the financial sector for the world of cinema, what pushed you to this?
G.O .: I realized that if I do not take this step, I will never take it. I remember at that moment life seemed to stop, I stopped feeling its taste and color, as if with covid. I was depressed by the realization that a faceless, joyless life would and will continue for years without bringing satisfaction.
OS: Having chosen cinema, you set off, one might say, on a risky voyage. After all, in America you need to make money, otherwise how to live?
G.O .: I did not think about that. I don’t know if this is a mistake or not. But I know that if I thought everything through to the details, I would never dare to take such a sharp turn. I treat the problem of choice as a chain of signs that need to be able to recognize, similar to how we navigate the route signs in the trees during a camping trip.
OS: You seem to be a fatalist…
G.O .: I’m an optimist. But I do not think that everything is predestined, a foregone conclusion. It is in our power to change our destiny. You need to choose the direction that intuition suggests. Don’t be afraid of yourself.

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OS: In your films, there is a noticeable movement from the surrealism inherent in your first experiences to everyday reality. Especially this evolution, the movement towards documentary, is noticeable in the last two films. – «Father» and «Strangers». This is a conscious choice?
G.O .: I’ve thought about this a lot. By making a movie, I create some kind of parallel world to reality, and this attracts me very much. I like it when the world is imperfect, I am attracted to distorted copies. At first, I liked abstract characters like Samuel Beckett, like David Lynch. I liked and still like the films of Leos Carax. Now it seems to me important to go deeper, to understand what is happening in the souls of people. And in this respect, the school of Columbia University, the school of Milos Forman, who taught there, is very important to me. I studied there with a wonderful teacher Milena Jelinek, who helped me a lot with my scripts. Unfortunately, she died in April from covid. Andy Bienen also helped me a lot, he is known as the screenwriter of the film «Boys do not Cry». Andy helped me with the script for the film «Timur’s promise».
OS: Does Russian cinema inspire you? Let’s say in «Father» I felt the influence of both Tarkovsky and Zvyagintsev.
G.O .: Certainly! I grew up with Tarkovsky. He is close to me in how he shot, how he thought. There was also Larisa Shepitko, an excellent director. Her film «Climbing» I was shocked by the construction of frames, by the rhythm. Then I saw «Go and look» Elem Klimov, Shepitko’s husband. After such films, I cannot talk for weeks on ordinary topics, their impact is so deep. I am very impressed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, his poetics is very close to me. From new impressions: I liked the movie «Tightness» Kantemira Balagova. There are very few visionary directors like him..
OS: The story told in the film «Strangers», has a real foundation?
G.O .: Yes, and even deeper than I initially thought. The birth of my daughter brought about a big change in my life. She fell out of bed one night and my wife and I didn’t know what to do. Should I take her to the hospital or not? Terrible uncertainty. Thank God, then everything worked out. For the film, I came up with a move with a broken crib due to my husband’s fault and the whole line with the emigration status of the girl’s parents. In the film, they are afraid to go to the hospital for fear of being arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. Similar stories no, no, and they surface in the press. The tragic fate of illegal immigrants and their children is the reality of today’s America. At the same time, «Strangers» – a product of my subconscious, associated with a similar story of my mother’s family and, in general, with the attitude of an inhabitant «scoop». In the country from which we came to America, fear, helplessness accompanied us everywhere and always. I remember, as a teenager in Kharkov, out of conspiracy, I locked myself in the closet, through the screeching «jammers» I listened «Voice of America» and «Radio Liberty».
O.S.: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your new projects?
G.O .: Of course, things got slower and more complicated. But I continue to work on Skype with a co-producer and casting director in Ukraine. Covid made us all stop and think. After all, we are not running anywhere else. It is very important.

Gleb Osatinsky: Kovid made us stop and think
  • Oleg Sulkin

    Journalist, film critic, correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in New York. Subscription

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