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A day of Russian culture: Da, da, a thousand times da

Films, music and fashion -- the nation demystified.

March 05, 2009|Karen Leano

For at least one day this weekend, fans looking for the latest films from Mother Russia won't have to badger the staff at West Hollywood's several Russian video stores or settle for pirated DVDs.

The first Russian Winter Festival is bringing to L.A. a rare influx of the latest features, documentaries and shorts straight from that country's vibrant film industry to the James Bridges Theater at UCLA. The all-day Russian culture event Saturday has been organized by David MacFadyen, professor of Slavic languages and literatures at UCLA, and is three parts film festival, one part fashion exhibit, one part concert and all parts gratis.

Screenings include Valeria Gai Germanica's "Everybody Dies but Me," winner of the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival 2008, and the Oscar-nominated animated short "Lavatory Love Story."

"The idea is that there's a lot of great films from a great country, so it will be a good time," MacFadyen said. "People will be exposed to new, important, interesting films and music so they might go off and try to find more after the festival."

Los Angeles fashion designer Nataya, of Russian and Uzbek origin, will be displaying her work in the foyer while Moscow-born songwriter Aleksei Kiskachi will be providing acoustic music during the festival.

"Even though [MacFadyen] has been working in the States, he knows more about Russian culture and music than the majority of people in the industry," said Ilya Lagutenko, lead singer of the country's hippest band, Mumiy Troll.

MacFadyen hopes the festival will grow and attract even more notable artists in years to come, reflecting the growing presence of Russian culture and emigres in Southern California. Mumiy Troll was originally scheduled to perform today and Friday at the Roxy as part of the celebration, but Lagutenko had an emergency appendectomy last weekend that forced the band to cancel the shows.

Popular director Valery Todorovsky anticipates a mixed crowd of those who'll need the subtitles and those who won't.

"We certainly expect all the Russians to come out here, but we also expect to see quite a few cinema fans who will come out of curiosity," Todorovsky said.

L.A.'s Russians, Lagutenko noted, have varying understandings of their homeland.

"Some of them who emigrated left a different country than the one I know now, so it's funny because they think things that happened in Moscow 30 years ago still happen."

It is this perception of current culture that MacFadyen seeks to demystify. He brought on Artemy Troitsky, touted as Russia's best-known music journalist, to make opening remarks at the festival -- but he says that this will probably be the only speech delivered there.

"This is a very Russian way to do the festival: nothing official, nothing formal, no business discussions," Todorovsky said. "Everyone should go to the cinema and get out the vodka and then sit down and have normal conversation. That's much more natural."

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calendar@latimes.com

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Russian Winter Festival 2009

Where: James Bridges Theater, UCLA

When: Noon-8 p.m. Saturday

Price: Free; parking $9 all day

Contact: www.moscow.ucla .edu

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latimes.com/guide

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