Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors — Sergei Parajanov‘s Ukrainian masterpiece – was adapted in 1964 by Ivan Chendei and Sergei Paradjanov from Mikhaylo Kotsyubinsky’s novel Tini zabutykh predkiv (1912) to celebrate the centennial of the author’s birth (1864 – 1913).
Shadows Of Our Forgotten Ancestors was directed by Sergei Parajanov, lensed by Yuri Ilyenko and stars Ivan Mikolajchuk (Ivan) and Larisa Kadochnikova (Marichka) — two childhood friends who fall in love despite the hostilities between their families. In an accident Marichka drows. Ivan marries Palagna (played by Tatyana Bestayeva) but he can’t get over Marichka’s death who constantly appears to him.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors also stars Spartak Bagashvili (Yurko) who later played Sayat Nova’s father in Sergei Paradjanov’s Armenian masterpiece The Color of Pomegranates (1968). Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors won the Grand Prix at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival in 1965 and countless awards on the festival circuit around the world.
It also inspired the great scientist and Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sagan’s book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. In the introduction, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote: “…the haunting 1964 film by Sergei Parajanov gave us our title.”
I wish the footage would turn up of Mikhail Vartanov’s introduction before the screening of Paradjanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors in Hollywood during American Film Institute’s epic Exhibition of Russian Cinema.
It was my favorite screening of Sergei Iosifovich’s first masterpiece — even though the 35mm print was the worst I had ever seen. I think I loved it so much regardless because the small theater was sold out and most of the spectators weren’t fans (probably got seduced by the haunting title) yet at the end nearly every person felt compelled to approach Vartanov to shake his hand and say they were joining the growing army of Parajanov’s American enthusiasts.
That screening of Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was Mikhail Vartanov’s first public appearance in almost a decade and he felt very uncomfortable mingling with other presenters like Leonardo Di Caprio, Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin (who introduced Battleship Potemkin, Ivan the Terrible, and Ballad of a Soldier), but when the screenings started he loved whispering to me all the little secrets he knew about these masterworks that he had first discovered during his student years at the Moscow Film Institute (the same school that produced Parajanov and Tarkovsky).
I once contacted the British Film Academy to confirm many published statements (including Ephrahim Katz’s legendary Film Encyclopedia) that Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was a winner of the British Academy Award. They told me the film had never won or been nominated. I wonder who started the rumor.