As most of you read this, my exhibit opening will be over, but as I write it (eight time zones ahead of the east coast), we leave for Moscow in about 4 hours.
Last night my host family, my mom and I went to the opening of the 17th Moscow International Film Festival of Young Filmmakers. The festival is dedicated to Saint Anna, the patron saint of youth, by the way. On stage last night, I was honored to have the master of ceremonies talk about my photo exhibition for a moment during his remarks. There were several hundred people in attendance all prepared for an all night party of films, and music and more films. They literally were planning to be there until 6 am today. And for the next 7 days will screen 280 and films of varying lengths and descriptions. I would not want to be a judge. The organizers of the festival have been extremely gracious and helpful getting everything set up and organized and I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Before going to the festival, though, we had to register our travel visas. This is an archaic practice from the time of the Soviet Union where they wanted to know the whereabouts of every visitor. It’s also a way for the government to make some extra money from foreigners. From there we walked over to the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and bought tickets for a concert later this week. Partly from the size of the city, and partly from the love of music, literature and poetry of the Russian people, there are concerts going on in several different concert halls and theaters every night and they are often sold out.
A disturbing trend I’ve noticed the last couple days is smoking. To be sure, people have smoked here for years, but when I first visited in the 90s, there were very few restaurants so it wasn’t an issue. When I was here in 2008, I don’t recall restaurants being all that smoky. But, the few places I have been in so far on this trip, the air is cloudy. I see a lot of women smoking, especially.
Another increase I’ve seen has been advertising on the streets. It is everywhere. Hand in hand with the increase in advertising though, is an anti-smoking campaign with some very graphic ads telling people to stop. One of the most memorable is a photograph of an infant sleeping with a cigarette having been stubbed out on its back. The caption says “smoking around children is just as bad as this” (loosely translated). It makes me wonder though, if this is the latest phase in the Russian struggle to catch up on all the things they have missed over the last 70s years and compress it into just a few days/weeks/years. Only time will tell.
Spring is coming to Moscow. There is still snow on the ground, about 4 feet thick in my host family’s yard, but it has not snowed since we arrived and the weather is mild, above freezing during the days. And the street sweepers and crews with metal poles are out breaking the remaining ice off of sidewalks. Within just a few weeks, everything will transform as the snow melts off and the flowers begin to bloom..