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 (Katerina Ksenyeva)





     A Ukrainian Cossack village, night, the sun is setting across the river, grass-hoppers are chirping – just a Kuindji’s painting materialized. The village headman’s house is lit with candles and a beautiful slow song is heard.  In the house the village council is in session. We see Cossack men and women: ascetic faces of the elders, beautiful women hurrying to fetch food and to replace empty bottles with new ones filled with moonshine; children scurrying about the room; a newly-born Cossack swinging in the cradle.  The headman gives a short toast in the name of St. George and crosses himself. The Cossacks watch in silence; deep and important political thoughts etched on their faces.  


     A Ukrainian Jewish borough reminds of Chagal’s “Magic Vitebsk” in tenor and colours of life.  Ukrainian-Jewish kids run around; unsympathetic tradesmen and usurers have a quarrel; Ukrainian lads fondle big-breasted lasses; young Jewish newly-weds timidly make love through the holes in their long white shirts.  In the hayloft a seven-year-old kid is performing unbelievably funny sexual tricks with a teenage girl, who is likely to be his elder sister. It is he who is our hero. The whole thing looks like the panorama of some continuous canvas, an eclectic blend of Chagal with Gogol’s jovial absurdity, portraying the life in the back of the Ukrainian beyond.

This relaxed and natural picture is suddenly broken by another “jolly” natural event – a pogrom begins, a massacre which is a regular thing in these places. The merry Cossacks, the ones who have been planning the action since evening, commence their habitual acts of barbarity to an accompaniment of ululations and whistles; gonfalons with the image of St. George in their hands.  We see a sabre in the hands of a huge handsome smiling old Cossack on horseback. He looks like an epic hero, a dashing horseman from a Vereshagin canvas. He cuts a tree in two…  and not only a tree. Someone’s blood splashes down on the Cossack’s boot and the foam streaked side of his horse. He flies into a passion as he attacks a frail old Jew, his sabre swishes… and the Cossack misses the target. The Jew, like a small animal, whisks through a hole in the fence and runs across a vegetable garden to hide himself in his brothers’ hut. A noisy and merry crowd breaks into the hut; silence greets them for all the Jews have hidden themselves like mice. The older handsome Cossack looks around with naïve childish eyes and spreads his arms theatrically. “Anybody home? Well then, I’ll go shit…” – a joke of the same ilk follows. Perhaps, the legendary actress Faina Ranevskaya remembered it from her own childhood?  The Cossacks burst out in raucous laughter.  Then the leader puts his finger to his lips and silence falls. A loud rumble in the bowels of someone lying under the bed is heard. This makes the Cossack giggle and joke again. They drag various members of the Jewish family out from most unlikely places, from cracks and holes, and the general mood of a circus and clownery reigns. It is terrifying. The Cossacks charmingly coax victims, imitating their jesting leader; it looks like sharks tenderly rubbing their snouts on the bodies of fur-seals and merrily throwing them into the air before they are ready to use their jaws. The Jewish men, women and children make a poor sight – sweating, licking their lips, shivering with every beat of their racing hearts, innocent of any crime. An old man soils his pants.  The Cossacks giggle good-heartedly: “Oh, I smell a swine here! It’s time to skin it!” All of a sudden, a young Jewish kid rolls head over heels in front of them and begins… a step dance. At the same time he manages to sing, somersault, doing all sorts of tricks and pirouettes like a red-haired clown in the circus ring. This show takes place in between the victims and the butchers.  The Cossacks look amazed. Out of breath, the sweating boy concludes his short and desparate show with a rhythmic and artistic step movement. The Cossacks’ eyes pop out and they roar with laughter. “What a Yid kid! I’ll die of laughter!”  The merry leader wipes his tears. Exhausted with laughter, he staggers towards a delicate Jewish teenage girl and leans onto her shoulder in a showy way. He moans with laughter as his huge paw of a hand snatches the girl’s breast. “Oh, that’s a real udder!”. A roaring laughter follows as he shoves his paw between the girl’s legs and sqeezes her pudendum. “Oh, what we have here!” Another roar of laughter. As the Jewish girl tries to push his hand away, he lifts her as easily as if she were a kitten, towards the ceiling.  “See what I can do!” Like a juggler, he turns the poor girl around holding her on the child-bearing part of her body. The impression is that he is competing with the young Jewish boy and his circus show. The girl squirms with pain and shock. The Cossack throws her to his friends. She flies across the room. It looks like a circus in the inferno. She falls into the Cossacks’ hands to everybody’s ululations. They get excited and go on to further excesses. The boy stands petrified, as if paralysed: he’s failed to save his family. The huge leader stops his fellows in a good-natured manner, the way the circus ring manager would call for attention. He comes up to the boy. The boy’s head shakes to the rhythm of his pulse running wild.  The merry blue eyes of the hangman look down at him as the Cossack brandishes his sabre at him. The boy closes his eyes tightly and stops breathing. We hear the sabre swishing. The point of the sabre touches the boy’s sweaty forehead with precision, not even scratching it.  The boy opens his eyes and stands frozen as he watches the Cossack making a cross over him with his sabre. “Look, he stands stock-still, like a rock!”, he says. ”Well done, Yid. Filthy blood, but a good heart! A rock, not a kid you are!”  The Cossacks don’t dare disagree with the chieftan and nod. He shouts: “Shake your legs and out of here!” As he grabs the buttocks of an elderly Jewish woman looking ill and stupid, with her head shaking not with fear but with sickness, he addresses the Jews accompanied by the laughter of his comrades. “My dear little Jews, thank this kid till the day you die like pigs. Wash his feet with water and drink it! Brothers, let’s sing!” To the sounds of a merry Cossack song the men file out of the door, like fairy-tale heroes. Through the doorway we can see the evening fog thickening against the golden sunset. A brown spot grows at the back of the boy’s pants. The boy’s POV: the Cossacks get out of the house and vanish into the fog.  First their mighty bodies vanish into the mist as into the sea and the boy only sees their heads above the water, then they  disappear in it for ever… like thirty three warriors in Pushkin’s fairy-tale. A beautiful Ukrainian song echoes above the fields. 

KATERINA KSENYEVA   under edition by ROB JAMES (United Kingdom)

Actress, producer, author



My vision of the future film and its message are connected with the fact that today the relationship between us, the common people who experience day-to-day joys and sorrows, and those who stir the brew in their political pot, has become a very urgent issue of our times.   

Our existence is fragile and hangs by a thread above an abyss which is being excavated for us by some people, who are no worse than ourselves, but who simply lack imagination and consider us all as mere statistics. Actually, those who shape politics are just self publicists; and as for those  presently at the head of Russia’s mass media, they consider people en-masse as no better than cattle.  

What can be done?  We should look back into the past and learn its lessons. What ideals are there to unite the individual and a nation as a whole?  How to build a bridge of mutual sympathy and understanding between the peoples of Russia and the USA in the face of another imminent “cold war”?    

I think the answer lies in our common cultural values. What makes a creative personality unique and places him or her above the crowd and the times, beyond the power of political functionaries?  I have a simple answer to this question. “Is it true that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual?” an average man asked a well-known musician.  “That’s right’, he answered. “But it’s not the only thing we value him for.”  We can repeat these words when speaking about Pushkin and Tolstoy, Freddi Mercury and Visconti. For it’s not about their being worse or more corrupted than we are, but it is about just one thing: their talent and spark of the divine express that very, “beauty which will save the world.”

Creative work and culture make up a brotherhood whose members are no stronger than the rest of us. But their creative work helps withstand the routine and ignorance, the tyranny and cruelty, the rage of the crowd and the boundless cyniscism of dictators. They are honest to God in their creativity, if it is humane, constructive and capable of giving us joy and tears of delight!   

Our story features the lives of two jazz musicians who live in different countries but in the same historical period, a Russian Jew and an Afro-American.

Originally, the Russian protagonist was inspired by the actual facts and events of the life of Utesov, an outstanding Russian musician and actor. His intelligent irony and improvisational flair permeated his creative life. His name translated into English means “a cliff of a man”, “a rockman” and, in our case, suggests the image of a man, as strong as a boulder, as strong as rock, a musician and artist, capable of being a great Citizen with the help of his sparkling talent.

His counterpart, the American Rockman, seems larger than life and his personality, caliber and destiny would remind us of such greats as, for example, Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington, born in an Afro-American ghetto. But our protagonists are purely fictitious.


And when our heroes grow too old and weak to continue their creative activities, “the real life” begins! Hope comes to Russia in the shape of “the Khrushchev thaw”, while in America the XX century’s most intelligent and humane president, John. F. Kennedy, comes to power. He is the first to raise the issue of discrimination. Yet, it does not mean much to our heroes because their creative life is over, therefore there’s little sense in dragging out a miserable existence.  Would both of them, who used to be tenacious, resourceful, sophisticated and clinging to this beautiful life, fighting for survival and love, choose to leave this world in an easy way?  We should distance ourselves from Bob Fosse’s “exit” of the hero in “All That Jazz” as far as possible. Why?  Because our heroes are not so self-centered. They are Rockmen made of rock. They are Citizens of their own nations. And their intuitive foresight tells them that perhaps, in reality, nothing will ever change in the surrounding world of people. Everything will remain as it used to be. Only music and creativity give meaning to life, their lives, as well as ours.





(th’alternative names 



Some of the greats said: “Humanity will perish – Let it be! Music will endure – that’s what makes me sad!” I’ve always wondered how to unite people – regardless of their nationality, race or religion- with the help of music.

As I see it, survival is no longer a problem of a country considered individually with its national patriotism priding itself on its achievements but, on the contrary: survival is in the readiness of one country to accept and understand the traditions, culture and all the dramatic moments in the history of another. Perhaps, by the word “Ecumenism” the great humanist of the XX century, Nicolas Roerich, meant not only a merger of all religions into a common one, but the cultural endeavor of different nations for the sake of “The Common Good”. “Pact of Culture” is the title of one of his prophetic paintings. Without values of culture and memory, humanity will not be able to survive on earth. Now that the future of mankind is measured by universal computerization and technical progress, common humanity is retreating into the backgound. All workers in the field of culture must unite in their struggle for Morality, Mercy, Beauty and Kindness. This must be what Dostoyevsky meant by saying “Beauty will save the world”.            

In Ukraine and Russia, just as in other countries, the musical heritage of the last century is rapidly sinking into oblivion. The great performers of the past do not seem to exist for the majority of listeners. The message of our project “Rockman” is to revive our people’s interest in genuine black American jazz, which is only familiar to the elite today. For American audiences this film will be an eye-opener, because it will show Russian musicians attempting to play that kind of music, as best they could, in the times of terror and dictatorship in Russia. A draught of freedom – that’s what it meant for them!

How to handle the allision between American jazzmen and the character Utesov, an outstanding – Ukrainian - Russian actor? A page of his autobiography answers the question.      

I’ve taken a risk and proposed to Yuri Mamin, the director of the future film, my vision of how this page may be developed into a consistent dialogue between our hero and his American teachers. Leaving aside a certain naiveté in my concept, it has been approved generally by Yuri Mamin as an alternative version of the script.

When in France, our hero meets talented black musicians, great masters of musical improvisation and also just fascinating, hilarious and irresistible characters! The impression they produced on him is so strong that they become his impossible, unfeasible dream. Concurrently, he is enthusiastically delving into an ‘a-la-Ruse” version of black music masterpieces which are forbidden in the USSR.

In his dreams the people he met return to him again and again. They will not leave him in peace, as if trying to urge him to perform with them. They encourage and inspire him. In one of his dreams though, he fails to perform and wakes up in sticky, shameful sweat. And he continues to live with day-to-day Soviet reality.

In another dream, the musicians manage to turn him on to expressing himself freely, playing music and feeling like a king of jazz, for the first time in his life.  But once again, he wakes up to find himself a miserable Soviet entertainer.     

In his third dream their improvised concert, somewhere in a skanky basement from Soviet times, is raided by NKVD soldiers. The NKVD start beating the musicians to within an inch of death, breaking the pianist’s fingers, as was the case with the Chinese musician Lu Shee Kun. Our hero rushes to rescue his friends and then realizes that they can not be killed because they are already dead. They were killed after their chance meeting in Paris. Our hero is shocked.  He awakes and sees a portrait on the wall above his head. It is a jovial black trumpeter with pop-out eyes and puffed cheeks, a trumpet at his mouth… 

   While our hero is living in the Soviet reality with its concentration camps, “Black Marias” and official torture, racists and the aggressive mob are ruling the roost in the USA. Who knows what fate befell the genius musicians Utesov met in France? “Ragtime” and “The Mississippi on Fire”, and many other films which raise questions of genuine humanity and the beastly cruelty of the mob and the powers-that-be, teach us tolerance and compassion. How to make our viewers understand - in an original and stark manner, without falling into sentimentality or repeating the cinematic clichés, and definitely as a comedy - that those black musicians who personify our hero’s unrealizable dream may be as harassed as he? This unites them, brings them together and makes him feel, in his dreams, that they are his comrades, friends and brothers.  They accompany him throughout his life. In his imagination they may as well have incorporated themselves into the gray Soviet routine. But later they disappear, leaving him to face just humdrum reality.   

In one way or another, our hero interacts with his American friends throughout the film. In both American and Russian history there are a lot of fascinating cameos, ugly and ridiculous, funny and piercing, which will be a revelation for both Russian and American audiences.

Another unique feature of the project is the fact that the film will be directed by one of Russia’s  most outstanding film directors, Yuri Mamin, whose film, [FILM NAME], was invited to participate in the Academy Awards (The Oscars) by “Sony-Pictures” in 1994 (documents signed by Michael Barker dated as of September-October, 1994 are enclosed).  Yuri Mamin is the only director capable of shooting this piercing story of relationships between the power and the artist, which will also be an entertaining and enthralling cameo of the origins of a Soviet variant of American jazz. As for American viewers, it’s going to be fireworks for them, for they have no idea about the forms of expression US jazz has taken in Russia.  This home-made jazz version “a-la-ruse” will make them explode with laughter!

At the same time our project should and will be devoted to the revival of New Orleans, the cradle of black jazz. But for the great music which helped people to survive and retain their humanity, be it under Stalinism, or during WW II, or with the racist extremes in the USA, the XX century would have appeared even more chaotic to me.

We intend, with the support of American and Russian artistic institutions, to invite black stars of Hollywood and Broadway to participate in the project, as well as Russia’s leading musical talents.  We eagerly await the director’s insights, including casting the lead role, for the part of the Rockman: he should be a new face with a genuinely powerful personality, multiplied by  natural charisma.

Last but not least, the audience will never be bored with us!  


Katerina Ksenyeva, actress, producer, autor

Edition by ROB JAMES (United Kingdom)



(the alternative names 



The US film project “Rockman” (the alternative names: “Comrade-Jazz”, “The Man Who Jazzed”) is a biopic about Leonid Utesov, an outstanding Russian actor and musician of the XX century.

The project is to be realized by the renowned Russian film director Yuri Mamin.

There comes an inevitable question: what’s the point? What could attract wide American audiences to this story if they have no idea who the hell this guy Utesov was?  The point is that Utesov, known to every Russian, was an enthusiastic admirer of American jazz and managed to create its analogue in Soviet Russia, but shaped it into his own original forms.

More than that, he not only created Russian jazz, but had to fight for its survival all through his life behind the iron curtain and under the pressure of heavy communist censorship.      


Without a chance to see or hear famous American jazzmen live, with no opportunity of becoming familiar with Jazz’ Afro-American origins, Utesov went his own independent way. He took classical pieces of Russian and foreign music, Russian and Jewish folk tunes, townsfolk romance and popular songs and transformed them into jazz harmonies. He presented them on stage as theater performances. The orchestra he created went by the name of “Thea-Jazz” (theater + jazz). “Thea-Jazz” concerts resembled Broadway shows, but had a definite Russian-Soviet color.

Soon they became incredibly popular with soviet spectators and Utesov was an A-rated star.

By recreating the most famous numbers from these shows the film will offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the brightest spots of the “Thea-Jazz” phenomenon, which has long since passed into history.


Leonid Utesov’s life is a striking example of the extraordinary life of a man with a unique gift. His talents were versatile and comparable to those of Harry Hoodini and Charles Chaplin. If such a personality should appear in America, biopics would be made about him. Characters like him twist people’s minds and create myths around their personal lives. A desperate street fighter earning a buck in street fights, courageous revolutionary sticking leaflets under the nose of the police – such was he in his formative years. A musician, a dancer and an acrobat, an incorrigible womanizer, whose amorous adventures gave rise to rumors and hearsay – this is the young Utesov.

A resourceful stage director of various shows, an eccentric actor whose performances made the audience explode with laughter – this is the image of Utesov in later years. 

At the end of the 1920s, Leonid Utesov, as a member of a Soviet youth delegation, visits Paris and sees some Afro-American jazz musicians for the first time in his life.  Utesov is so shaken by their performance and by His Majesty Jazz that the rest of his life is dedicated to re-creating something of the kind in Soviet Russia.


Russian culture is essentially eclectic. It readily adopts other forms and styles, digests them and creates new original and independent phenomena which, in their turn, begin to impact world culture, producing Tchaikovsky and Turgenev, Mussorgsky and Dostoyevsky, Rachmaninoff and Chekhov, Stravinsky and Tolstoy, Stanislavsky and Michael Chekhov…         

It would be naïve to suggest that the reason for the demise of communism in the Soviet Union was Gorbachev’s rise to power. A gradual penetration of western culture through the Stalinist iron curtain triggered the process of liberating Russians from the terrible chains of human and artistic repression. And it was jazz, together with European and American cinema, which, little by little, were eroding soviet norms of aesthetics through such personalities as Leonid Utesov.  This explains why the life of this artist, behind the façade of the limelight, was one of constant struggle for survival in the totalitarian state.  The drama of this struggle constitutes a significant part of the film.


This film project, its philosophy and inspiration are based on the conflict between the powers-that-be and the artist. A gifted creator, capable of opening up a new direction in arts, of influencing the minds and tastes of his compatriots, has to constantly edit, modify and refine his artistic discoveries, flattening them to satisfy the ignorant critics.

Utesov’s life was tragic under the veneer of prosperity. In the country of repression Leonid Utesov was trying hard to preserve his jazz. But since Stalin was actively interfering with every sphere of culture - literature and ballet, classical music and variety shows - he inevitably played a destructive role in Utesov’s life. With each award Stalin gave him, with each time he had to come to terms with the authorities, Utesov gradually transformed into an honored mediocrity from a rebel and sparkling jazzman. 


Musicals as a popular genre or musicians’ life stories are not at all common in Russia.  Musical comedies, given birth by the genius of director Grigory Alexandrov, died out with his death. But it was Alexandrov who glorified Utesov and his “Thea-Jazz” in the film “The Jolly Fellows”[[Katerina, this is according to IMdb]]. They say that all new things are no more than forgotten old ones. The authors of this film project face the challenge of bringing back and reviving this bright page of Russian musical culture which will enrich modern audiences with new exciting impressions today.

Katerina Ksenyeva                                   Edition by ROB JAMES (United Kingdom)

Actress, autor, producer

© Katerina Ksenyeva 2011