Bolshoi Babylon

Veteran director and cinematographer Nick Read is no stranger to crises, patient wars and prisons. His latest documentary is not set in some distant warzone, but the Bolshoi ballet of Moscow, where the fights are different, but just as bloody. The ballet, founded in 1776, is a paragon of Russian culture. It’s also a stage for gossip and scheming, with its long history full of scandals and misfortunes. Just a few years ago one of the ballerinas claimed that dancers were required to sleep with the oligarchs funding the ballet.

In his documentary Read follows life at the Bolshoi Ballet in 2013, when Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Ballet, was badly wounded in a violent acid attack. The acid destroyed part of Filin’s face and permanently blinded one eye. Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was charged for the attack, and he ultimately confessed organising the deed. The attack divided the ballet, with some of the dancers supporting Filin and some defending Dmitrichenko.

Amidst the chaos, the show had to go on, and night after night the theatre continued to put out the best ballet performances in the world. Tensions within a ballet group are great and the strain on the dancers enormous: dancer’s profession is emotionally and physically demanding, the competition ruthless and time in the limelight short at best. The leader of a ballet has the power to make and break stars. On top of it all, Bolshoi lives in the shadow of Kremlin and conspiracy theories about the political connections run amok increasing tensions further until they sometimes explode, as happened with the violent attack on Filin.

Turkka Ylinen / Translation: Tuomo Karvonen

Languages: Russian, English
Subtitles: English

  • Director: Nick Read
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Year: 2015
  • Length: 86 min
  • Age limit: S
  • Format: DCP
  • Cinematography: Nick Read
  • Editing: David Charap, Jay Taylor
  • Audio: Vasili Amotškin
  • Music: Smith & Elms
  • Production: Mark Franchetti / Red Velvet Films


  • Cinema Sõprus: Sunday 31.01 - 14:00