One of the first post-war Soviet filmmakers to gain international prominence, Grigory Chukhrai is perhaps best recalled for what are arguably his two masterpeices, "Ballad of a Soldier" (1959), for wh...
Feature film directing debut, "The Forty-First", a remake of the 1928 silent "Sorok pervyi"
Final film, "I'll Teach You to Dream"
After finishing film studies, offered job at Mosfilms but declined and moved to Kiev
Offered job at Mosfilms but declined and moved to Kiev to work as assistant to V. Braun
Returned to fictional features with "Netepichnaja istoria/An Untypical Story" (a.k.a. "Tryasina/Quagmire")
Entered film school; studies interrupted by WWII
First feature as assistant director, "Admiral Ushakov", directed by his teacher Mikhail Romm
Moved to Moscow
Debut as director, co-directing "Nazar Stodolya" with V. Ivchenko
Won international attention for "Ballad of a Soldier"; became first film from the Soviet Union to be entered in an American film festival (at the 1960 San Francisco Film Festival where it took top honors)
Directed the documentary "Pamyat/Memory/Remembrance"
Appointed head of the Moscow Experimental Film Unit
Made the non-fiction film "Stalingrad"
Served in the airborne infantry during WWII; was wounded several times
Helmed "La Vita e Bella/Life Is Wonderful/Life Is Beautiful", a Russian-Italian co-production about a politically persecuted taxi driver
Made what is arguably his masterpiece, "The Clear Sky/Clear Skies"
Helmed "There Was an Old Man and an Old Woman", about an elderly couple who journey to visit their daughter
One of the first post-war Soviet filmmakers to gain international prominence, Grigory Chukhrai is perhaps best recalled for what are arguably his two masterpeices, "Ballad of a Soldier" (1959), for which he earned numerous accolades, and "Clear Skies/The Clear Sky" (1961), which served as a metaphor for life under the repressive regime of Josef Stalin.
Chukhrai was born in Melitopol in the Ukraine, but shortly after his birth his parents divorced. When his mother remarried, he was raised on a collective farm near Moscow. In 1939, Chukhrai enrolled at the prestigious Moscow Film Institute (VGIK) but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Serving in the infantry and later with the airborne forces, he participated in the Battle of Stalingrad, was wounded five times and received numerous commendations. When the war ended, Chukhrai eventually returned to VGIK to complete his studies.
Although he graduated in 1951, Chukhrai was unable to complete his diploma film because of a shortage of equipment and materials. One of his teachers, Mikhail Romm, recognized his passion and talent and rewarded him with the post of assistant director on the bipartite biography of Admiral Ushakov, a prominent figure in Russia's 18th-century conflict with Turkey. Difficulties with government censorship on that project led Chukhrai to decline a position with Mosfilms; instead he accepted a post at Kiev studios where he made his feature debut as co-director (with V. Ivchenko) on "Nazar Stodolya" (1954), a remake of a 1936 historical romance. Returning to Moscow the following year, Chukhrai made his solo directorial debut with another remake, this time a 1928 silent, "Sorok pervyi/The Forty-First", set during the Russian Civil War and centering on a female Red Army soldier stranded with her male White Army prisoner. The pair fall in love but when reality intervenes, tragedy ensues.
The international and domestic success of "The Forty-First" catapulted Chukhrai to international attention. He solidified his reputation with "Ballad of a Soldier", a film he conceived during the Battle of Stalingrad as a tribute to his fallen comrades. Co-written with Vladimir Ivashev, "Ballad of a Soldier" focused on a young infantryman whose bravery earns him a six-day leave during which he travels to see his mother. Along the way, he encounters various individuals who occupy his time and attention. Intended as a condemnation of war, "Ballad of a Soldier" was praised for its documentary-like realism, its technical achievements and its sincerity. The film became the first from the Soviet Union to be entered into an American film festival and it went on to earn several prizes and accolades.
Chukhrai took a more overt political stance in his follow-up, "Chistoye nebo/The Clear Sky/Clear Skies" (1961), another tale of war that revolved around a pilot who loses his place in society when he becomes a prisoner of war. That film, arguably the director's masterwork, proved a big success in the Soviet Union but was less well received in other parts of the world. His next film, "There Was an Old Man and Old Woman" (1965), was the first of his features not to have a war theme, but instead was a intergenerational familial conflict between an elderly couple and their daughter who abandoned her husband for another man. The following year, the filmmaker was tapped to head the newly formed Moscow Experimental Film Unit which attempted to encourage younger directors to consider alternate types of motion pictures rather than the usual war-themed dramas and adaptations of classical work that were the norm of Soviet cinema. One project included filming interviews with former soldiers who participated in the Battle of Stalingrad. Chukhrai intended to make a fictional film on the subject, but for a variety of reasons wasn't able to. Instead, he made two non-fiction films, "Stalingrad" (1969) and "Pamyat/Memories/Remembrance" (1972), neither of which impressed critics.
Chukhrai was only able to complete three additional movies, "Netepichnaja istoria/An Untypical Story" (1978) about a mother who hides her deserter son for the duration of her life, "La Vita e Bella/Life Is Beautiful" (1984), which focuses on the political persecution of a taxi driver, and his final work, the documentary profile of Soviet director Mark Donskoy, "I'll Teach You to Dream" (1984).