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 Karen Shakhnazarov

Born:   08 July 1952

film director


Karen Shakhnazarov is one of the leading Russian cinema masters endowed with a peculiar talent. The pictures created by the film director and scriptwriter are quite versatile in dramatic concepts and author’s messages; following traditions of genre cinema they all have distinct plotlines and explicit relations of the characters.

Karen Georgievich Shakhnazarov was born on July 8, 1952 in Krasnodar. As a child Karen was keen on painting and wanted to enter the Art Faculty of VGIK (All-Union Institute of Cinematography), but that required an art school diploma, which he did not have. Thus he decided to study at the Film Direction Faculty. From 1969 to 1975 he studied under Igor Talankin. Afterwards, in 1973–1974 he worked as a production assistant. From 1976 he was a film director and from 1984 a production director at the Mosfilm Studio. In 1987 he became the art director of Creative Group ‘Start’, which was renamed into Kurier Studio in 1990. Since 1991 he has been the art director and Chairman of Administration Board of the Kurier Film Studio attached to the Mosfilm Concern.


Since April 20, 1998 Karen Shakhnazarov has been combining his creative career with the far from easy duties of General Director and Chairman of Administration Board of Mosfilm Concern.

The first independent film directed by Shakhnazarov was his graduate work, a short-length feature under the title Shire shag, maestro! (Step Wide, Maestro!) (1975). It was followed with two more short-length films, namely Na skolzkoy doroge (On the School Path) (1977) and Na ekrane Vasili Shukshin. Pozovi menya v dal svetluyu (Vasili Shukshin on Screen. Call Me to the Bright Faraway) (1977).

In 1979 Karen Shakhnazarov directed his first full-length feature Dobryaki (Kind Men) that won a prize of the Young Filmmakers Festival. Then he also tried his wings as a script writer (jointly with Aleksandr Borodyansky, his collaborator in many works to follow) for Ivan Kiasashvili’s film Damy priglashayut kavalerov (Ladies Invite Gentlemen) (1980).


The Messenger Boy (1987)
However it was the musical My iz dzhaza (We're from Jazz) (1983) starring Igor Sklyar, Aleksandr Pankratov-Chyorny and Yelena Tsyplakova, which brought recognition and popularity to Karen Shakhnazarov as a film director and script writer. The film defined by viewers as the best film of the year, also took several international awards. His next popular film Zimniy vecher v Gagrakh (Winter Evening in Gagry) released in 1985 is also a musical comedy.

The eccentric youth film Kurier (The Messenger Boy) (1987) both written and directed by Karen Shakhnazarov also received a great ovation. The author managed to grasp the features of the young generation that was growing up at the very end of the epoch of Stagnation and weird relations between people in those hard times.


Zero City (1988)
Karen Shakhnazarov’s fantastical tragic farce Gorod Zero (Zero City) (1988) starring Leonid Filatov also won a number of prestigious awards.

In the historical feature Tsareubiytsa (The Assassin of the Tsar) (1991) Shakhnazarov dwells upon the tragic lot of Nicholas II and his family. The film boasts an amazing duet of actors Oleg Yankovsky and Malcolm McDowell.

Following this the film director turned to the genre of satirical comedy: his Sny (Dreams) (1993) starring Oleg Basilashvili is a story of absurdity and nonsense of the post-Perestroika way of life in Russia.


Poisons or the World History of Poisoning (2001)
The year 1995 saw the release of Amerikanskaya doch (American Daughter); the film starring Vladimir Mashkov is made in the best traditions of American comedy melodrama.

In 1998 Karen Shakhnazarov came out with another masterpiece of his, a brilliant picture under the title Den polnoluniya (Day of the Full Moon) (1998): a bizarre kaleidoscope of plot fragments, it presents reality interwoven with romantic reminiscences, whereas its harsh, almost naturalistic picture turns into a poetical journey in time and space.

The next remarkable film was Yady, ili vsemirnaya istoriya otravleniy (Poisons or the World History of Poisoning) (2001), a fantastical black comedy starring Oleg Basilashvili. The film Vsadnik po imeni Smert (The Rider Named Death) (2004) touches upon the issue of terrorists of the early 20th century.

The Extinct Empire (2008)

Nostalgic feature film Ischeznuvshaya imperia (The Vanished Empire) released in 2008 tells about the Soviet youth of the 1970s in a truthful and touching way. Initially the film was titled Born in the USSR.

Apart from his film directing and scriptwriting activities, to say nothing of being the Director Generalof Mosfilm studios, Karen Shakhnazarov has also been a producer of several films.

He is living and working in Moscow.


Tags: Russian cinema Russian film directors Karen Shakhnazarov   

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