Film Screening & Discussion: Finding Babel

Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Harriman Institute Atrium (12th Floor IAB, 420 West 118th St.)

Please join us for a screening of the documentary film Finding Babel (2016), followed by a Q&A with its director, David Novack.

Run time: 89 minutes

75 years after subversive Soviet writer Isaac Babel's execution for supposed criticism of the Communist Party, his grandson works to piece together the story of the grandfather he never knew and understand the author's unique artistic style.

Isaac Babel was a Soviet journalist, playwright, literary translator, and short-story writer. He began publishing after the Revolution of 1917 and rode with the Red Cavalry unit during Russia's Civil War. Babel bravely reported from the front line, stating in his writing his belief that "Journalistic work is full of adventure." However, he may be best known for his short-story collections Red Cavalry, published in 1926, and Odessa Stories (1927). Accused of harsh criticisms of the Communist Party and an alleged affair with a secret police officer's wife, Babel was executed on Joseph Stalin's orders in 1940. In this revealing documentary, we search for a deeper, more intimate understanding of the writer by meeting Babel's wife and grandson as they reflect on his writings and Russia's current political climate. Director David Novack stylistically bridges the informative and artistic, enhanced by archival film, animation, and Babel's actual diary entries and writings, read by actor Liev Schreiber. Finding Babel allows us to move closer to the real story of an elusive, secretive writer who believed in a system that chewed him up for his socially revealing masterpieces.

Invigorating...Finding Babel honors with intelligence and plenty of feeling. - Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

Excellent! A moving account of Babel's travails, and particularly his writings! - Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

Gains in power, insight, and urgency as it journeys - Alan Scherstul, Village Voice


David Novack is the director of Finding Babel. He is perhaps best known for the documentary he wrote, produced, and directed, Burning the Future: Coal in America. He has made a name for himself in the world of social commentary. He also received recognition as an advocate for human rights after producing Kimjongilia, a documentary about North Korean refugees.


Finding Babel - Theatrical Trailer