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Finding Babel's YIVO Panel on Isaac Babel.

Finding Babel

Russia, Art, Europe, Jewish Film, Jewish Highlights
David Novack
88 minutes



Moscow Jewish Film Festival

Official Selection
Haifa Int'l Film Festival
Seattle Int'l Film Festival
Odessa Int'l Film Festival
Molodist 45th Kyiv Int'l Film Festival
ArtDocFest, Moscow
Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia

Invigorating... Deeply Moving!
Finding Babel honors with intelligence and plenty of feeling.

- Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

Excellent! A moving account of Babel's travails, and particularly his writings!
- Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

A glowingly rewarding investigation into the life of a great Russian writer.
- Film Journal

Gains in power, insight, and urgency as it journeys.
- Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

A film of great sensitivity and rather unfortunately, significant modern relevancy. Highly recommended!
- JB Spins

★★★★★! A cautionary tale for the modern world.

The best proof of documentary's relevance ...
- Pravda

An extraordinary documentary film.
- Giulio Meotti, The Gazette

An exquisite blockbuster documentary.
- Vitaly Mansky, President, Artdocfest

An excellent and emotionally laden new film.
-The Odessa Review


Featuring the voice of Liev Schreiber

Isaac Babel's writings are subversive masterpieces, challenging the ideology of the early Soviet Union, and resulting in his arrest and execution in 1940. On the 75th anniversary of Isaac Babel's execution, Finding Babel follows Andrei Malaev-Babel, his grandson, on a journey to come closer to some sense of truth. Hoping to better understand Babel's powerful artistic method and elusive persona, Andrei journeys through Ukraine, France and Russia; locations deeply tied to the story of his grandfather. He confronts lingering traces of a turbulent history that echo in Babel’s writing and in the conflicts and climate of today’s Ukraine and Russia.

With each stop, Andrei gets closer to the complex stories that Babel wrote with depth and hidden meaning. Ultimately, through powerful interviews and a painful examination of Babel’s NKVD file, Andrei engages with his grandfather’s arrest, torture and execution. Babel’s life story and his fiction are woven into Andrei’s search with ethereal animation that puts viewers, like Babel’s readers, somewhere between reality and fantasy.



David Novack is the director, and a writer/producer of Finding Babel. Prior to his work with Finding Babel, Mr. Novack wrote, produced and directed the film Burning the Future: Coal in America, which opened in theaters, aired on international television, and won awards at numerous festivals in the US and Europe including the prestigious IDA Pare Lorentz award for social documentary filmmaking. Mr. Novack toured with Burning the Future to China and Ukraine with the American Documentary Showcase, sponsored by the US Department of State. With the program, Mr. Novack lectured extensively at universities and film festivals and was profiled in magazines and television programs.

Mr. Novack produced Kimjongilia, a documentary about N. Korean refugees that premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The film won the 2010 best human rights documentary award from the One World Brussels Film Fest of the Human Rights and Democracy Network. In additional to making films, Mr. Novack is a Professor of Film at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design where he enjoys mentoring a new generation of filmmakers.

Featured in the Film

  • Yevgeny Yevtushenko
    Nobel-nominated Russian poet

  • Antonina Pirozhkova
    Babel's wife and Andrei's grandmother

  • Marina Vlady
    renowned Russian-French actor

  • Vitaly Shentalinsky
    author of ARRESTED VOICES: Resurrecting the Disappeared Writers of the Soviet Regime


JBS Interview with David Novack


For information on eduational availabilty of Finding BAbel contact:

Satisfies on many levels...a sustained, soulful mediation on art, love, political commitment, and the tragedies of the twentieth century." - Boris Dralyuk, Executive Editor, Los Angeles Review of Books

David Novack's documentary Finding Babel provides an exemplary, moving, haunting introduction to Isaac Babel's writing and his world for viewers who have never read him before, and a stunningly effective reminder of his eloquence and vision to those of us who have. At a moment consumed with the rise of tyranny in Russia, the resurgence of right-wing extremism in Europe--and the US--and the crisis of refugees over the entire world, Babel's storytelling, his rhetorical restraint, and his moral fearlessness are more urgent than ever. Finding Babel reminds us all of who Babel was, and why he matters. -Marc Caplan, Judaic Studies and Comparative Literature, Yale University


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