Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of “Rainbow” (Raduga) film by Mark Donskoy, made in Ashgabat

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of “Rainbow” (Raduga) film by Mark Donskoy, made in Ashgabat

Vladimir ZAREMBO

During the Great Patriotic War, many defense enterprises, which launched the production for the front, organizations engaged in the material and technical supply of the active army, and educational institutions, where training and scientific work interrupted by the war continued, were evacuated to Turkmenistan. Refugees from the regions destroyed by war were sent here; wounded soldiers, orphans who had lost their parents in the blockade Leningrad and on the battlefields arrived to recover and to have medical treatment. Everyone received shelter, food and care here.

Culture workers worked fruitfully in Turkmenistan also. In 1941, Kiev Film Studio was evacuated to the capital of the country. Here, on the basis of the Ashgabat film studio, they began to work on shooting “Rainbow” (Raduga) film.

By the arrival of a team of Ukrainian cinematographers – directors, actors, camera operators, composers, artists, and assisting staff – nearly six hundred people, a one-story apartment building was built in Ashgabat. For production purposes, the Ukrainian cinematographers received the winter premises of the Cinema Theater “KIM”, which was located those years on the site of present Cinema Theater “Ashgabat”. It should be noted that some employees of the film studio arrived in the capital of Turkmenistan with their families. To provide the necessary assistance in the provision of food and other needs of the film studio, many ministries, departments, and city governments were involved. In the summertime, the creative team were given houses in the resort towns of Firyuza and Chuli.

Almost immediately, filmmakers began to work. They worked in close cooperation with their Turkmen colleagues – the team of the Ashgabat film studio. Turkmen actors, in particular, the young Alty Karliyev, were involved in the films; cameramen, decorators and artists of the Ashgabat film studio – Mered Atahanov, Alexey Ivanovich Yanin, Valentina Aleksandrovna Hmeleva and others – took part in the design of the movies.

During the period 1941 to 1945, the Turkmen Film Studio, in cooperation with the Ukrainian studio, which would later be named after the outstanding director Alexander Dovjenko, produced the feature films such as “Young Years” (Gody molodye0, “Partisans in the Steppes of Ukraine” (Partizany v stepyah Ukrainy), “Romantics” (Romantiki), “How Steel Was Tempered” (Kak zakalyalas stal), “War Movie Collection No.9 (Boyevoy kinosbornik No.9), “Rainbow” (Raduga). More than 140 editions of film magazines reflecting the feat of arms and labor of the sons and daughters of Turkmenistan during the Great Patriotic War were issued.

Living and working in the territory of Turkmenistan, cinematographers from fraternal Ukraine could not help turning their film eye on the nature of the country. Thus, the full-length sound documentary “In the Sands of Central Asia”, telling about the nature and animal world of Turkmenistan, was made.

Work on creation of films combined with departures of artists to the front. Thus, the Fourth Concert Front Brigade of the Turkmen SSR, comprised of both Ukrainian and Turkmen masters of art – musicians Geldy Ugurliyev, Klych Redjep, dancer Babadjan Sapayev, actresses Tamara Bagirova, Lyubov Suhomlinskaya, Muza Yumai and others, was created. They traveled from Ashgabat to Moscow by train, and from there by passing cars to the audience.

Throughout the winter of 1944, the front brigade gave dozens of concerts at the warfare places and in the rear units. As it was recorded in one of the reviews, “All concerts, both in content and in high skill, performed by each artist of the brigade, found a warm welcome from the audience. The performance of folk songs, songs of the Great Patriotic War accompanied by an accordion, national music and dance were of special admire. The team of the brigade did an excellent job and fulfilled its tasks, giving cultural and informative rest for the soldiers and officers of the unit, inspiring them to new feat of arms.”

Among films made by Ukrainian filmmakers in Turkmenistan, of course, the film “Rainbow”, directed by Mark Donskoy, was the most talented, the most plaintive, and the most tragic. “Rainbow”, based on a novel by Wanda Wasilewska, which was written in 1942, depicts life in a Nazi-occupied village at the beginning of World War 2. The German conquerors are above nothing, not even the slaughter of small children, to break the spirit of their Soviet captives. Suffering more than most is a Russian partisan woman who returns to the village to bear her child, only to endure the cruelest of arbitrary tortures at the hands of the Nazis. Film version of a novel was made on 1944. At that terrible war time, a few people could read the novel, while hundreds of thousands of people – soldiers at the warfare places, wounded men in hospitals, as well as those who served on the home front – saw the film, thanks to the international language of the cinema

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The film was shot in difficult conditions of wartime. It was necessary to organize the production of the most complicated objects for shooting, complex decorations depicting a Ukrainian village. It was necessary to shoot the main winter scenes, when there was an early spring outside. Somewhere in Russia at that time, there was still snow, while, in Turkmenistan, it was the time when trees were already blooming. While production problems were being solved, the filming process was delayed until the summer, so the filmmaking process supposed to be stopped temporary until next winter. At the same time, the delay would have a negative impact on the work. Then Hmelyova, production designer of the film, proposed to build the “Winter Village” scenery … at the Ashgabat stadium.

During three weeks, instead of the planned three months, under the personal supervision of Valentina Ivanovna Hmelyova, using snow substitutes – cotton wool, shor salt mined around Ashgabat and the topography of the stadium – benches in the stands, the stage scenery was built. As to work done by the production designer Hmelyova Mark Donskoy said: “She reached virtuosity in the sense of saving materials in wartime. We can definitely say that if it were not for a keen vision of the topic, an invention and a perfect knowledge of the profession, we would not be able to shoot the film.”

It can be added that the film “Rainbow”, which has become a hymn to the invincible will of the people, love for their homeland, is filled with juices of Turkmen land also, since the film has a piece of the Turkmen soul as well.

In November 1943, the Government of Turkmenistan “for the fruitful work of the collective of staff of the Kiev Film Studio during their staying in the Turkmen SSR and outstanding creative work in the development of feature films” awarded Mark Semenovich Donskoy with the title of Honored Artist of the Turkmen SSR. A large group of filmmakers, including staff of the Ashgabat Film Studio, was awarded honorary diplomas from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen SSR.

Brilliantly acted by virtually everyone in the cast, “Rainbow” is a remarkable achievement, one that deserves to be better known outside of Russia. It has been described as the most powerful and effective of the Soviet propaganda films produced during the war. The film “Rainbow” received the Highest Award of the American Film Critics Association in 1944, and Award of Daily News – for best foreign film shown in the U.S. in 1944.

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In June 1944, when the territory of Ukraine was already free from the fascists, Ukrainian cinematographers were able to return to Kiev to continue working on films the shoot of which started in Turkmenistan.

Seven decades later, young Ukrainian cinematographers shot the documentary “Rainbow over the Karakum desert”, about how the film “Rainbow” was created during the Great Patriotic War. Valery Balayan, Director of the film, , writes: “The film “Rainbow over the Karakum desert” is dedicated to a unique period when the Kiev Film Studio was evacuated in Turkmenistan. At that time, the Turkmen assisted a lot to the Ukrainians. And today this friendship is not forgotten!”

Rainbow always promises good weather after rain. Collected from the smallest droplets that remind the different colors of human souls, it looks like hands extended towards each other for peace, love, creativity and happiness.