I’m pretty jealous of Toronto cinephiles. Not only do they have one of the world’s premier film festivals, but they also have all kinds of unique film programs running throughout the year. Case in point: “Attack the Bloc,” an exhibition of Cold War-era sci-fi films from behind the Iron Curtain. Curated by Twitch’s Todd Brown, the exhibition features everything from arthouse fare like Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris to films about blood-fueled race cars and time travelers trying to assassinate Albert Einstein.
From Brown’s exhibition notes:
The Cold War was the unquestioned Golden Age of science fiction, as the utopian hopes and apocalyptic fears of the post-Hiroshima age, and the rising tensions of a world dominated by two great superpowers, seeped into all avenues of popular culture. Yet while we are well-acquainted with the forms these futuristic fantasies took in the United States — from the energetic exploitation fare of Roger Corman to the philosophical speculation of Stanley Kubrick to the pop-culture mythmaking of George Lucas — and such other Western-aligned nations as the UK (Doctor Who, the Quatermass series) and Japan (Godzilla and his rubber-suited kin, the sunny Astro Boy and the dystopian Akira), we are considerably less familiar with the science-fiction offerings from the other side of the Iron Curtain.
The science-fiction tradition in the one-time Eastern Bloc was as rich and varied as anywhere in the Western world, and the region’s film output is every bit as diverse as our own, ranging from art-house fare to populist comedies, hilariously cheesy space operas and grand adventures. And while there are some instances of open propaganda, there are also strains of sly satire — as well as evidence that the camp and excess of the swinging sixties didn’t completely pass the Soviet world by. We present here a broad range of Soviet-era science fiction, a mix of acknowledged classics and outright pulp from Russia, the former Czechoslovakia, Poland and Estonia. Bearded ladies, post-apocalyptic wastelands, robot companions, vampire cars and outbursts of random dancing all wait within. Join us, comrades!
Here’s a complete list of the films being shown at the exhibition:
- Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky)
- In the Dust of the Stars (Gottfried Kolditz)
- Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky)
- Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel (Grigori Kromanov)
- Test Pilot Pirxa (Marek Piestrak)
- Moscow-Cassiopeia / Adolescents in the Universe
- Ferat Vampire (Juraj Herz)
- The Great Space Voyage (Valentin Selivanov)
- Who Wants to Kill Jessie? (Václav Vorlícek)
- I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen (Oldrich Lipsky)
- Eolomea (Herrmann Zschoche)
- The Silent Star (Kurt Maetzig)
- To the Stars by Hard Ways (Richard Viktorov)
- Ikarie XB-1 (Jindrich Polák)
- Golem (Piotr Szulkin)
“Attack The Bloc” is currently playing in Toronto from now until early April.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.