TJ Martin in Yekaterinburg, Russia – Day 5 & 6
Early on our fifth day, TJ and I caught an early flight to Yekaterinburg while Dan stayed in Moscow one more day and left for Kazan the following morning. Yekaterinburg is in the Ural Mountains and is a 3 hours flight east from Moscow. It is a city of 1.3 million people and is most famous for being the location of the execution of the Rominov family, the last of the Russian czars. Beyond this limited information, we had little idea of what to expect when we arrived that afternoon.
We were met at the airport by Krisi Hayden, the public affairs officer at the US Consulate in Yekaterinburg. On the drive into town we learned that Yekaterinburg is one of the wealthiest areas in Russia because of the natural resources in the region and that it also has a rich cultural life with many universities and theaters. After lunch at a small diner-style Russian restaurant, Krisi gave us a walking tour of the city. We were lucky to be introduced to the city on a beautiful weekend day when the traffic was light and the public spaces were filled with people relaxing. We were struck by a number of very progressive city planning elements, including an apparent reverence for public art projects, and the youthfulness of the city in general. After touring the Church on the Blood, the church that was built to honor the Rominov family, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.
The next morning TJ met up with his translator, Dmitry Bezuglov, aka Dima, who would quickly become our friend and inside connection to Yekat’s art scene. In addition to being an occasional (and excellent) interpreter, 21-year-old Dima also has started an arts magazine in Yekat and consults on a number of other people’s projects. TJ and Dima headed to the live taping of the Yekaterinburg Region TV Morning Show where TJ, because of his Oscar win, was given a small figurine and asked to give an acceptance speech. This time he was sure to thank Yekaterinburg and the entire nation of Russia.
In the early afternoon we headed to the Ural Pedagogical Engineering University where TJ gave a brief lecture to film students there. They were particularly amused by Dima’s description of beer pong (TJ and Dan met while working on a documentary about the world series of Beer Pong) but also asked serious questions about how the film was shot, what cameras where used, how the film was financed and what the budget was. The class’s professor was Vladimir Ilyich Makeranets, a Russian filmmaker, owner of Dom Kino, the movie theater screening Undefeated and, we later learned, somewhat of a local celebrity.
We were next off to the American Corner for a small gathering of about 20 people, young and old, all interested in improving their English and learning more about American culture. Like many audiences, they wanted a full update on what the players and the coach are doing now and if TJ still communicates with them. For dinner, Krisi took us to a “secret” pub (there was a bookcase for a door) called Old Fashioned and then we spent the rest of the evening in the basement of the Dom Kino movie theater where a weekly jazz jam session is held. It was a great first day in Yekat!
-Rachel Gandin Mark, AFS staff