Directors Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev’s “The Desert of Forbidden Art” is an eye-popping discovery, telling the multifarious history of the late Igor Savitsky and his unknown museum in remote Nukus, Uzbekistan, where this one man’s singular focus on preserving art forbidden by successive Stalinist crackdowns saved almost 45,000 pieces of subversive, underground art. Savitsky, who died in 1984, had a notion of the museum as a “collective vision” made of souls, which puts the lie to a lot of Soviet-era assertions of what constitutes the common good. A failed painter becomes an intent savior, an “enemy of the people” who pulled successive con games to become an important comrade to the future. Savitsky’s letters and journals are read by Ben Kingsley; other voice-overs amid subtitles are by Ed Asner and Sally Field. 80m. (Ray Pride)
“The Desert Of Forbidden Art” plays Sunday-Monday at Siskel. The trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.