Interview with creator of "Russian Nights" Festival

His Musician Days

I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Mr. Stas Namin the creator and producer of the Russian Nights Festival. Unless you are heavily into music and or Russian Culture you may not be familiar with Mr. Namin. So before going into the interview I'll fill you in on a little background of this multi-talented man.

Stas Namin (Mikoyan Anastas) started out as a musician in 1969 he created the new band "Flowers" which became the first national super-band and jumpstarted the rock revolution in Russia. "Flowers" was the first Soviet rock group to tour the United States and the only Russian band to tour the world across the USA, Japan, Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia. All told, the "Stas Namin Group" has sold more than 50 million records. Stas Namin, in addition, participated in the recording of Keith Richard's disc "Talk is Cheap".

In 1987 Stas Namin was the first in Russia to establish the private company "Stas Namin Centre" - SNC, which focused on developing young talent. It was an unprecedented production Centre where new bands were created. The bands "Brigada S", "Korrozia Metalla", "Kalinov Most", "Moral Code" and many of today's national stars were brought to existence at SNC. One such group by Stas Namin was named after the place of its birth - "Gorky Park". After two years of work in the studio, Stas managed to sign a contract with Polygram Records and to make the Gorky Park band popular throughout the world. Along with Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella and others this band has participated in the super-festival arranged by SNC in Luzhniky, Moscow.

In August 1999 Stas Namin created the Moscow Music and Drama Theatre. The Theatre is located in Gorky Park with its open-air 15.000 seats amphitheatre, a 260 seats in-door hall, with restaurant, offices, recording and design studios and other facilities.


Q. Mr. Namin what was your inspiration for the Russian Nights Festival?

A. Actually all my life I have been in the cultural field I was a musician myself at first and then I created a Drama Theater in Russia. I directed, did photography and all these different things in my life. So, all the time I am somehow connected with a cultural life. When I came here actually I came here long ago when I had a tour with my band over all the United States. But for the last fifteen years I have been going back and forth and I see that Russian culture has two different sides.

One is like the image of Russians who have immigrated to the United States. This image actually even for Russia, we feel this image is a little bit like…I don't want to say low class, it is like bad taste sometimes. Because they are here these people and this…lets say…lets call it bad taste. Makes image for all Russian culture. This is not very pleasant speaking frankly, because we in Russia feel shame for it.

We have different culture in Russia, in Moscow. Russian culture has deep and big traditions, serious culture, world culture, with Russian Art like Malevich, Kandinsky, Lasansky, Rozhenko, with Russian Music like Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich. We have poets and great literature there's Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. We have great cultural tradition in Cinema with Eisenstein, Paranjana, some of the world's greatest people. So sometimes we feel shame with the image of Russian culture American people get from this…bad taste… lets say this level… you understand what I mean?  It's very delicate I even don't know how to formulate all that. But you understand all that?

The festivals - where Russian performers from here who are coming to entertain in the Russian community, they are of the taste which they love, it's like mass culture …like you know sometimes its… Musak. It's strange you know, we don't hear that kind of music in Moscow. I decided it would be interesting for Americans to see and also we would like to show that culture which we are proud of which in Russia, what we call culture. That's the idea of the festival and it's not a big festival we are not going to put on fireworks and do something huge that's not the point. The main thing is to put to together a cozy festival not small not big but cozy, nice, quite with good taste, good poetry.  Bringing real Russian poetry, real Russian art, Russian cinema and Russian theatre even Russian fashion with beautiful girls maybe sometime. Russian cuisine, which is also interesting it, is not only blini and piroshki it's much more.

So our purpose is to bring real culture in a wide meaning; including serious art, serious music, serious theatre, including fashion, entertainment, and cuisine.  But to put it very natural without a big huge show off, that was the idea. The first time in the previous year we did the festival, it was more concentrated on cinema but we had also music and art. This year we have brought more of a wide picture of Russian culture, the art we are bringing this time is 33 artists half of them already in Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum, Russian State Museum all of them are famous, really famous We are bringing films from Eisenstein to Paradzhanov - great films.

The opening will be a film, which was forbidden for almost a whole century. This will be the world premiere. The main role played by a legend icon poet of Russia - Mayakovsky and will be presented by the legendary leading poet Voznesensky.

Leonardo DiCaprio with Tower Award 2003

Sharon Stone will be coming and will be awarded by Voznesensky, the Russian Nights Tower Award for contribution to World Cinema. The next day Nastassja Kinski will also be awarded the Tower Award. This award is not competition it is respect from Russian audiences from Russian culture to those people for their contribution to the world cinema, art.and world culture. The previous years recipients were Leonardo DiCaprio and Francis Ford Coppola.

Q. I understand you are having a Russian Nights Festival in New York October 23 - 30, 2004.

 A. Yes we will be showing different kinds of works and different directions. Actually there will be two annual festivals in the United States one in April in Los Angeles and one in October in New York.

We are planning a festival of American culture in Russian next year it will be an exchange of cultures. There is a foundation helping us which is formed especially for these kind of exchanges of culture it is called the East West Foundation for Culture and Education. We have great support from both governments

We have greeting letters from Vladimir Putin from Russia, Mayor Bloomberg in New York and Gov. Schwarzenegger from California. All wrote beautiful letters greeting the festival. We have support from the State Department and both governments are supporting the ideas of the festivals, which actually put our people closer in helping understand each other.

Stas Namin

Q. What are some of the not to miss events?
A. Difficult to say but I think the opening is unique absolutely because the film was...can you imagine a film where Alan Ginsburg was directing and playing the main role. Mayakovsky is like icon he was killed and from that moment the film was forbidden and the world and this is the world premiere.  There are five silent movies from the beginning of the century. The closing is an American premier of 72 Meters the most fashionable hit and bestseller in Russia.

Q. The artists are they all coming in from Russia or are they local?

A. No the main idea of the festival is to bring real Russian culture not immigrants culture. Culture that is right now valuable in Russia the most fashionable, the most valuable art, theater, music and everything that we are proud of right now.

For a complete listing of the film program, visit the festival website: Russian Nights is sponsored in part by LA Weekly, Panorama Media, 7 Arts, Adelphia, Rodnik Vodka, Samuel Adams Beer, the Pacific Design Center, Movieline's Hollywood Life, IN! Magazine and the National Bartenders School. For more festival details and ticket information, please call 310.712.2588 or visit Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 866.468.3399.

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