Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




DAU: Epic Cinema or Epic Fail?

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the Russian Film Club at Columbia University and the Harriman Institute for a discussion with Sophie Pinkham, Alexander Genis, and Max Lawton. Moderated by Daria Ezerova and Mark Lipovetsky. This event is part of our Contemporary Culture Series.

Fifteen years in the making and shrouded in mystery, Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s DAU was anticipated with a mix of curiosity and apprehension. Sporadic reports from the behemoth set expressed doubt and confusion as to what the final product would look like: “Apocalypse DAU,” “The Movie Set that Ate Itself,” and “Inside DAU, the ‘Stalinist Truman Show’.” The project’s premiere in 2019 was followed by a series of scandals and accusations of abuse and participation of neo-Nazis behind the project’s 700 hours of footage. Critical opinion remains polarized, sparking polemics about ethics, artistic ambition, and control.

The films are available at


Sophie Pinkham is a writer specializing in Russian and Ukrainian culture, history, and politics. Her book Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine came out in 2016. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, The Nation, n+1, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, among other places. She received a PhD from in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Columbia University.


Alexander Genis is a Russian-American writer, broadcaster, and cultural critic. His career started in New York City where he met and worked with Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky, writer Sergei Dovlatov, and painter and writer-conceptualist Vagrich Bakhchanyan. Since 1990, he has written more than a dozen books that are non-fiction bestsellers in Russia. Genis is also an anchorman of the weekly radio-show American Hour with Alexander Genis on Radio Liberty and a contributing writer for the main liberal Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Max Lawton is a translator, novelist, and PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University. He has recently translated Blue Lard, Telluria, and Their Four Hearts by Vladimir Sorokin. Sorokin’s short stories in Max’s translation will appear in the online magazine n+1.




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