Film Screening and Discussion: Operation Wedding

Sunday, February 26, 2017
Lerner Cinema, Lerner Hall (2920 Broadway)

Please join the Harriman Institute and the student association Aryeh for a screening of the film Operation Wedding (2016), followed by a Q&A with director and producer Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov. Free and unticketed for CUID holders, $10 tickets for non-CUID holders must be purchased in advance HERE.

Run time: 63 minutes

Leningrad, 1970. A group of young Jewish dissidents who were denied exit visas plot to hijack an empty plane and escape the USSR. Caught by the KGB a few steps from boarding, they were sentenced to years in the gulag and two were sentenced to death though they never got on the plane. Forty-five years later, filmmaker Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov reveals the compelling story of her parents, leaders of the group, who are "heroes" in the West but "terrorists" in Russia, even today.

It started as a fantasy, Operation Wedding, as outrageous as it was simple: under the disguise of a trip to a local family wedding, the hijackers would buy every ticket on a small twelve-seater plane, so there would be no passengers but them, no innocents in harm’s way. The group’s pilot, who once flew for the Red Army, would take over the controls and fly the sixteen runaways into the sky, over the Soviet border, and on to Sweden, bound for Israel. They were caught in the airport, a few steps from boarding the plane, and tried for high treason. Among those arrested remained one woman to be on trial: Sylva Zalmanson, who receives 10 years in Gulag. Sylva's newlywed husband Edward Kuznetsov, receives death sentence.

While the Soviet press writes "the criminals received their punishment", tens of thousands of people in the free world demand "Let My People Go!" As the Iron Curtain opens a crack for 300,000 Soviets Jews wanting to flee, the group members are held back to pay the price of freedom for everyone else.

"Your parents are heroes," Anat had been told ever since she was a child. Every year at school, she was asked to stand up in class and share their story. Nevertheless, the saga of the family was gradually forgotten. At age 29, Anat decided to do what she had been asked since the first grade. She would tell her parents’ story to the world.

Anat travels with her mother Sylva to retrace the group's journey from the day of the arrest at the small Soviet airport to KGB prison where 25 year-old Sylva was kept before the trial. Anat's research continues for years and she finds rare archives and interviews former key members of the KGB, trying to understand their point of view.

Through a collage of interviews, discussions over vodka and cigarettes, rare archives and reenactment made both in Israel 1980 and in Russia 2010, Anat reveals for the first time the full story of her parents and a group of civilians who changed history and cracked the Iron Curtain.

Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov was born in Israel to Sylva Zalmanson and Edward Kuznetsov, leaders of the Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair. She studied filmmaking at the London Film School and Sapir college and has been commercially successful in popular media and promotional productions with companies such as L'oreal and Clinique. She has also directed music videos for well known Israeli musicians such as Yermi Kaplan and Julietta. It has been a long-standing ambition for her to tell the story of her parents in the medium of film.