From its founding in the 18th century, Odessa was to be a new kind of imperial city: an economic crossroads, orderly and modern in its sensibilities. Yet, the port city’s location on the edge of the Russian Empire lent Odessa the feeling of a frontier town – an El Dorado on the Black Sea, swarming with gangsters, fortune hunters and pleasure seekers. It was also a crucible of Russian and Jewish culture, and an important breeding ground for Jewish literature, art and politics.
This short film titled “Odessa, Odessa,” (2017) documents an exhibition of the same name on view at Yeshiva University Museum in New York for most all of 2016. “Odessa/Оде́сса: Babel, Ladyzhensky and the Soul of a City,” pairs the writer Isaac Babel and the artist Yefim Ladyzhensky. Both feature their hometown in their work and interpret the broader world through an Odessan lens. This pairing of the writer’s texts with the artist’s imagery, together with a range of contemporary film and period music, brings to life Odessa at the beginning of the Soviet Union – from its bustling commercial street life and colorful underworld to its radical political landscape and violent revolutionary conflict.