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“Sideburns” (Bakenbardy)

In 1990, Yuri Mamin shot the film “Sideburns” which is a sharp political pamphlet about a fanatical Fuhrer-Pushkinist and his aggressive gang. This picture, in the style of Bertolt Brecht, was filmed during a wave of nationalism in Russia, when the nationalist-patriotic society “Pamyat” (Memory) openly called for a fight against Jews and other national minorities.  Their methods included posters and information stands, and they further dropped leaflets in the subway stations containing a list of enemies’ addresses with calls to deal with them in the “X” hour.  Law enforcement agencies remained indifferent to this coven. The lists included the names of outstanding figures of Russian culture; writers and musicians. It is curious to note that the manifestation of common anti-Semitism was directed at Jewish intellectuals at the time, considering peddlers, black-marketers and profiteers, from the same Jewish race, calmly set up their inhuman businesses in order to become the backbone of modern Russian oligarchy.

Having received one of the leaflets in his hands, of course Mamin could not remain silent.  He immediately went to the town of Tsarskoe Selo to visit the writer Vyacheslav Leikin, and together they came up with the script and title of the future film.  
Several domestic studios were interested in the treatment.  A dispute ensued for the rights of the film between the studios of Rolan Bykov and “Lenfilm”. “Lenfilm”, headed by A. A. Golutva, won, offering Yuri Mamin wider shooting possibilities.
Dozens of young actors, who have since moved on to further fame, made their debut in the film.  Victor Sukhorukov, whose cinematic career began with “Sidewhiskers”, acted in the main role of the mentor to the “Pushkinists”.

The bloody crackdown on demonstrations in Tbilisi (1989) that occurred during the filming of “Sideburns”, prompted the director to come up with the film's climax: the brutal dispersal of the rally of a group of young “whiskers”, armed with canes on the orders of “The Whiskered Fuhrer”.

The film “Sideburns” received the prestigious FIPRESCI Prize in San Sebastian in Spain (1991) as well as various other awards. It was acquired for cinematic release in the USA and Germany, as well as by foreign television channels. But the film had virtually no showings in Russia, except for its proliferation on VHS cassette.  Nevertheless, the film became a cult classic for the 90s generation.

Interesting facts

The forty-year-old actor Victor Sukhorukov was brought by the assistant director V. Studennikov, who had known Victor from his work in the “Liteiny” theatre. He showed him to Yuri Mamin and Victor immediately “attacked” the director:

“Why are you bothering me?! You won’t shoot it anyway! You will only have exhausted my nerves and I'll have to go on a drinking binge!!” Victor shouted at Mamin.

“And just here’s the lunatic that I’m going to shoot!” Mamin declared.

And he kept his promise, giving him the role of the leader of the “Pushkinist-Nazis.
Ten years after the release of “Sideburns”, Y. Mamin again invited Sukhorukov, who had by that time become a famous actor, to participate in his TV series “Grim Tales from Russia”, shooting him in the role of Semyon Shverubovich, the proprietor of a UFO newspaper.

“Sideburns” turned out to be a visionary film. It predicted events of the early 21st century, connected with the bloody demonstrations of national extremists. Moreover, Mamin had predicted the full measure of stupidity and vulgarity which arose during the celebration of the 200-year anniversary of A. S. Pushkin’s birth.  This celebration included the same forms and details as the “Pushkinists’” propaganda from the film. This included the cowardly tabloids with a picture of all of the great poet’s lovers, and stupid talentless knick-knacks, which accompanied Pushkin's birthday.   All of this happened in 1999 and forced everyone to once again to remember the film “Sideburns”, which, incidentally, was not once shown in any theater or on any TV channel at the time.

© Katerina Ksenyeva 2011