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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Ukrainian Cossack that made it in Hollywood

August 8 marks 135 years since birth of the founder of Yalta Film Studio Oleksandr Khanzhonkov
9 August, 2012 - 00:00

The name of the film director Oleksandr Khanzhonkov is closely connected with Ukraine. He was born in Donetsk oblast in the village of Khanzhonivka on August 8 (July 26, Old Style), 1877. In 1896 he graduated from Novocherkask Cossack Cadet School and in the rank of officer cadet began service in privileged Don Cossack Regiment.

In 1898 the life of Khanzhonkov was brightened with the discovery of cinema. He preferred the service of “photography in motion” to military service. In 1905 in the rank of Cossack officer Khanzhonkov left the regiment and invested in cinematography his 5,000 of severance pay.

At first Khanzhonkov worked as a shareholder in Moscow Gaumont and Siversen Company. Soon this company joined in his own company, which grew into a factory that produced films.

In 1908 Khanzhonkov together with Russian film director Vasily Goncharov shot and released first short films Song About the Merchant Kalashnikov and 16th Century Russian Wedding. In 1911 the first feature film by Khanzhonkov and Goncharov Oborona Sevastopolya (Defence of Sevastopol) was released. In the fall this film was showed to the king Nicholas II in Livadia. In 1912 first cartoon filmed in clay animation technique Beautiful Lucanidae, or the War of Sawyers with Stag Beetles. From 1909 through 1912 Khanzhonkov shot from eight to ten films each year and in 1913 he shot 20 films.

Khanzhnkov was the first in the history of Russian and Ukrainian cinematography to shoot educational films on topics of geography, zoology, botany, medicine, and agriculture. He invited leading experts to work on those films. Khanzhonkov also focused on the promotion of cinema art to the masses: in the end of 1910 he started publishing a magazine Cinematography Herald and in 1915 his magazine Pegasus, where along with articles on cinema, there were also texts about music, literature, theater, and modern culture in general.

In 1916 Khanzhonkov bought a plot of land in Yalta and opened a film studio which then grew into the Yalta Film Studio. In a year JSC Khanzhnokov & Co. opened the summer motion-picture studio: there appeared a cinema factory in Yalta which promised to become a Russian Hollywood.

In the 1920s Yalta Film Studio released Ukrainian films: The Last Stake Made by Mr. Enniok (based on the novel by Alexander Grin, 1922), Ghost Haunting Europe (1922), Ostap Bandura (1924), Warrant of Arrest (1927), Kira Kiralina (1928), and Three (1928).

In his last years Khanzhonkov wrote memoirs. A part of those memoirs was included in the book First Years of Russian Cinema (1937). Then there was war. During the German occupation of the Crimea in 1941 through 1944 seriously ill Khanzhonkov was in Yalta. On September 26, 1945 the outstanding filmmaker died.

On August 8, 2008 in memory of Khanzhonkov a monument was opened in his historic homeland – Makiivka, Donetsk oblast. In 2011 another monument appeared in Yalta. Also there is an annual film festival “Days of Khanzhonkov” held in Yalta in honor of the great filmmaker.

By Tetiana AVDASHKOVA, Simferopol