In 2017, award-winning filmmaker Olga Lvoff and I, as well as our colleagues at Hunter College, Barnard College, and Moscow State University, established MOVING LYRICS: SIGHT THE CITY, RECITE IN THE CITY--a festival of short poetry-based essay films made by the students from our institutions. The Russian title of the festival is ПОЭТ С КИНОАППАРАТОМ: СТИХИ В ГОРОДЕ И СТИХИЯ ГОРОДА. The festival keeps growing—from 12 participants last year to 16 this one—and we are open to students from other U.S. and Russian institutions joining us in the future.
The idea of the project Moving Lyrics is an interdisciplinary pedagogical project that brings together students from two leading urban and cultural centers, New York and Moscow, Russia, through creative engagement with poetry and filmmaking.
Moving Lyrics is an international festival of short essay films. The festival fosters media literacy, linguistic diversity, and an appreciation for poetry among undergraduate and graduate students. The festival has been held twice. American students (from Hunter College, Columbia University, Barnard College, and New York University) made short films in New York, based on Russian and other Slavic poems; students from Moscow State University shot their projects in Moscow, based on Anglophone poems. The participants received free training in filming and editing under Olga Lvoff’s and learned to work with poetry under my guidance. We plan to expand the festival to other Slavic programs in the U.S.
In June 2019, Moving Lyrics conducted a summer film school for the Russian-language students of the famous Indiana University Summer Language Workshop. After only two weeks, students and their professors learned the basics of filmmaking and produced 6 films, based on some classical Russian poems (by Mikhail Lermontov, Korney Chukovsky, and Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov), a classical Ukrainian poem by Lesya Ukrainka, a prosaic excerpt from Joseph Brodsky’s essay, and also a poem written in Russian and translated into English by the very professors of the IU Summer Language Workshop. This was an immersive experience for the participants as well as the organizers of the workshop, demonstrating that creative work aimed at an artistically valuable result, is a catalyst in learning a language and understanding a culture. Transforming poems into films turned out to be both creative and analytical, but most important, the students were truly absorbed by being the co-authors of the poems they cinematized, so that at some point, while mastering the language of cinema, the students had almost forgotten they were interacting with us and one another in their second language, Russian, which was exactly one of the goals of this particular version of Moving Lyrics.