Vagrich and The Black Square

Script and director Andrei Zagdansky


The film is a collage, an essay and a documentary in tribute to an avant-garde artist and a free thinking man – Vagrich Bakhchanyan. Viewers are immersed in the absurd and bitterly funny universe of the artist, as scholars and friends reflect on his life, enigma and the mystique of his connection with Kazimir Malevich’s famous “Black Square” – an inception point of Russian avant–garde.

A hybrid film mixing documentary footage with live action and animation.
I've been working on this project for almost a year and a half.

I met Vagrich in 1994 in New York City.
He was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, became famous in Moscow working for a newspaper "Literaturka" and then left the Soviet Union for good.
By the time my met he and his wife Irene had lived in the United States for twenty years.
He was a genius.  A very special person.
And a very special artist.

I wanted to make a film about him ten years ago.
I started collecting my own footage with Vagrich in 2003: Vagrich reading from his book "Not a Day Without a Line" – every month on the same bench in Central Park, Vagrich showing me his works, notably "Illustrations to My Phone Conversation".
Sometimes he would reminisce on his life and artistic influences.

In November 2009 Vagrich died.
My wish to make a film has become an imperative.

We got a small grant and we started working in earnest in 2012.
In Armenia we shot the opening of his first solo exhibition at Naragatzi Art Institute in Yerevan.
And we shot the artist’s funeral. Irene Bakhchanyan, fulfilling Vagrich’s last will, scattered his ashes high in the Geghama Mountains, over a stone covered with ancient petroglyphs. The magnificent Ararat overlooks the site, herds of sheep roam nearby.
And we animated some of Vagrich’s conceptual drawings.
Some are as short as 15 seconds, some are longer. All are brilliant: funny and poignant
We work with a very talented animation artist Alex Budovsky.

In July 2013 AZ Films LLC signed a coproduction agreement with Ukrainian State Department of Film, and Gennady Kofman and his company MaGiKa Film became our coproduction partner.

In November 2013 we completed principal photography in New York, Kharkov and Moscow. 
Besides hours of priceless footage with Vagrich himself we have interviews with his key friends, with the most distinguished Russian art scholars and one very enthusiastic art collector.
We have most extensive digital collection of his images from private collections, Zimmerli museum in New Jersey, his graphic works done for newspaper “Literaturka” in Moscow, and Russian weekly “Seven Days” published in New York.

In February 2014 we staged and shot one of Bakhchanyan's short absurdist plays in Kiev Franko Theater.

81 min


AZ Films L.L.C., MaGiKa Film

Financial support:
support by the State Film Agency of Ukraine

Screenings and festivals:
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