Odessa, Odessa

From its founding in the 18th century, Odessa was to be a new kind of imperial city: an economic crossroads, orderly and modern in its sensibilities. Yet, the port city’s location on the edge of the Russian Empire lent Odessa the feeling of a frontier town – an El Dorado on the Black Sea, swarming with gangsters, fortune hunters and pleasure seekers. It was also a crucible of Russian and Jewish culture, and an important breeding ground for Jewish literature, art and politics.

This short film titled “Odessa, Odessa,” (2017) documents an exhibition of the same name on view at Yeshiva University Museum in New York for most all of 2016. “Odessa/Оде́сса: Babel, Ladyzhensky and the Soul of a City,” pairs the writer Isaac Babel and the artist Yefim Ladyzhensky. Both feature their hometown in their work and interpret the broader world through an Odessan lens. This pairing of the writer’s texts with the artist’s imagery, together with a range of contemporary film and period music, brings to life Odessa at the beginning of the Soviet Union – from its bustling commercial street life and colorful underworld to its radical political landscape and violent revolutionary conflict.

  • Mark Kelner
    Stalin in Jersey, On Thin Ice, And So We Beat On...
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Art, Soviet Union, Odessa, Isaac Babel
  • Runtime:
    8 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    1,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Mark Kelner

Mark Kelner is a visual artist and filmmaker based in Washington, DC. Prior to the art world, he worked with filmmaker Steven Spielberg, coordinating the production of video testimonies of Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe and Russia for the USC Shoah Foundation Institute. A graduate of George Mason University, where he studied with the esteemed novelist Vasily Aksyonov, his work has appeared in Artenol, The Atlantic, and The Times, which published his humorous essay, “How to Sell Art to Oligarchs.” His debut series, “Moscow Made, American Born,” explores Russian-American duality by means of contrasting and distorting the visual symbols, ciphers, and social systems that define both cultures and their respective art histories. Of note, his visual works have been showcased in various media platforms and his short performance film, “So We Beat On” was recently featured by The Washington Post. Of late, he has been a guest on "Charlie Rose" and is in active practice on his long running series, “Signs and Wonders.” Additionally, from 2009 - 2017, Mr. Kelner was elected to the Board of Directors of the Hermitage Museum Foundation (USA) where he helped develop the Museum’s, “Art from America” and “Art Without Borders” programs, as well as various international contemporary art projects. Mr. Kelner is represented by Galerie Blue Square.

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