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DEC 7-29

While his celebrated peers Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov prowled the cities, Ukrainian cinematic pioneer Alexander Dovzhenko took his camera to the countryside. The result wasn’t the sort of Soviet agrarian epic that’s often lampooned, but lyrical films of striking beauty. Dovzhenko had already worked as a teacher, a diplomat, and an illustrator when he decided in 1926 to turn his attention to cinema. Although he knew little about filmmaking, he created a sensation with his second solo feature, 1927’s Zvenigora (at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7). Officially a hymn to industrialization, this collection of tales about an old man and the magic mountain Zvenigora works on multiple levels. His next film, 1929’s Arsenal (shown with Zvenigora) made an equally rich visual experience from a propaganda assignment: the account of a Bolshevik workers’ revolt at a Kiev munitions factory. The director’s final silent movie, 1930’s Earth (pictured, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14), imbued a story of peasant-landowner struggle with a sense of universality and transcendence. Some Soviet officials denounced the film, which will be presented here with a new score played live by the Alloy Orchestra, as counterrevolutionary. This retrospective also includes 1935’s Aerograd (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22), an adventure melodrama set in a vast Siberian “air city”; Dovzhenko’s final film, 1948’s Michurin (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29); and two World War II documentaries, Battle for Soviet Ukraine and Victory on the Right Bank Ukraine (both at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29). The series runs from Saturday, Dec. 7, to Sunday, Dec. 29, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)