Bolshoi acid attack, ballet's underbelly examined in HBO documentary

Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:48am EST
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By Farah Nayeri

LONDON (Reuters) - Sergei Filin, the Russian ballet director who was partially blinded in a 2013 acid attack, is the focus of the behind-the-scenes HBO documentary "Bolshoi Babylon" that shows the flipside of a world most people associate with glamor and beauty.

On the night of Jan. 17, 2013, a masked assailant threw sulphuric acid in the face of Filin, then the artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, causing severe burns and leaving him blind in one eye.

Within weeks, the Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko was arrested in connection with the attack, and later sentenced to six years in prison for organising it. A fellow defendant was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

Filin -- who had himself been a lead Bolshoi dancer in the past -- remained artistic director until July 2015, when his contract expired.

Unlike other dance documentaries, "Bolshoi Babylon" shows nothing but the unglamorous side of ballet: the physical pain, the meager paychecks, the short-lived careers.

It also goes over the circumstances of the acid attack, presenting the protagonists one by one, including Dmitrichenko, the man convicted of the crime.

But "Bolshoi Babylon" avoids presenting Filin as a martyr. Instead it gives voice to dancers who describe him as biased and imperious, and highlights Filin's tense rapport with the Bolshoi’s general director Vladimir Urin, appointed by the Kremlin in September 2013 to put the house in order.

He and Filin had different views on how the company should be run.   Continued...

Sergei Filin, the artistic director of Russia's Bolshoi ballet, addresses the court in Moscow, November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files