Aleksandr Nikolajevi Sokurov was born in 1951 in Irkutsk, Siberia. The son of a professional soldier, his family moved frequently and he grew up in Poland and Turkmenistan. In 1968 enrolled in History at Gorky University and started working on documentaries at a local television station. After finishing his History degree, he began studying at the Moscow Film School (VGIK), where he was an excellent student but clashed with the school in his final year when his work was deemed unacceptable and accused of being excessively formalist and anti-Soviet. Perestroika and the fall of the Soviet communist regime did not bring Sokurov visibility or recognition, but the new trade unions and Andrei Tarkovski’s public defense of his work did make a decisive difference. The films Mother and Son (1997) and Russian Ark (2002) brought him international acclaim, and Sokurov is now considered one of the most important European filmmakers.
Sokurov has produced over forty works including short and feature films and documentaries. He has directed more than fifteen fiction films and twenty-five documentaries, often serialised as trilogies. Sokurov’s highly lyrical and stately films explore the plasticity of images and their possible meanings, and blur the boundaries between fiction and documentary. His films focus on human situations of conflict and hardship, often framed in the context of the former Soviet Union. Drawing on references to classical painters and works of literature, and with a constant consciousness of death, Sokurov makes film-poems in which the landscape plays an important role.
Sokurov’s films have not had easy access to mainstream distribution channels, but since the late eighties they have won numerous awards at many independent film festivals and have been exhibited at contemporary art museums around the world.