Friday, 11 March 2011

Grigori Chukhrai - Biography

Artist: Boris Zelenskii
Directed by Grigorii Chukhrai
Along with gifted masters of drama cinema direction, such as Andrei Tarkovski, Vasili Shukshin, Tatyana Lioznova, etc, Grigorii Chukrai made an important contribution into the culture of cinematography.

Upon returning from the war in 1946 Grigorii Chukhrai entered VGIK (the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography), the faculty of film direction and studied under the guidance of Yutkevich and Romm, both notable directors of that time. After the graduation in 1953 Grigorii was offered to stay in Moscow but he decided to go to Kiev (Ukraine) instead. There he worked as an assistant and a second director. In 1955 Pyriev and Romm talked him into getting back to the Moscow studio 'Mosfilm' where he started shooting his first movie 'The Forty First' (1956) after Boris Lavrenev's novel. Since that film Grigorii never parted with Mosfilm and each of his movies that followed made a true masterpiece.

Not once Grigorii had to recollect in interviews the scandal that was about to cut short the creation of his most famous film 'Ballad of a Soldier' (1959). Under severe pressures of the blind Soviet Establishment it seemed almost impossible to shoot and come at the release of such a film. One had to be not only daring and courageous enough but also had to put all one's soul into it. A hero of war, a former trooper and a person of high spirit and profound feelings, Grigorii just could not do it otherwise.

Very young actors were chosen to play the main roles in the film: Volodya Ivashov (1939-1995) and Zhanna Prokhorenko (1940). 'We took a big risk. It was risky to give the main roles to quite inexperienced actors. Not many would have done so in those times, but we ventured and did not regret afterwards. Volodya and Zhanna gave the most precious colouring to the film, that is, the spontaneity and charm of youth", - the film director recollects.

The movie based on the script by Grigorii Chukhrai and Valentin Ezhov (1921-2004) tells a story of a young Russian soldier (Ivashov) who gets a two-day vacation for shooting down several tanks and hurries to his native village to see his mother and mend the roof of his house. On the way he meets a pretty young girl (Prokhorenko) and helps her get home. He also has some errands from his front fellows and spends precious time to help some other people. After all he arrives at home, sees his mother just for a minute and has to return to the front at once. And he never comes home again.

In addition to his other talented films Chukrai wrote two books of memoirs: 'My Cinema' and 'My War'.

Grigorii Chukhrai died on October 29, 2001 at the age of 80.

His life credo is expressed in his words: 'What happiness it is to think of the interests of your country instead of your personal ones!'

His son Pavel Chukhrai followed his father's steps to become one of the well-known Russian film directors today.


Laureate of the Cinema Festival in Cannes, nomination 'Special Prize', 1957.
Laureate of the All-Union Cinema Festival, nomination 'First Prize for Film-Direction', 1960.

Laureate of the All-Union Cinema Festival, nomination 'First Prize for Feature Film', 1960.

Laureate of the Cinema Festival in Cannes, nomination 'Prize for the Best Programme', 1960.

NIKA Award, nomination 'Honour and Dignity', 1993.

Kinotavr Award, nomination 'President Council's Award for Creative Career', 1996.

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