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TO MAY 25
First they killed them. Then they banished their memory. Between 1927, when Esther Shub made the silent The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, and the mid-’80s, when glasnost weakened the censors’ power, Russia’s last czar officially didn’t exist. But the withering of Soviet Communism has brought a re-evaluation of Nicholas II and his family, as reflected in two of the three films in this series. Gleb Panfilov’s The Romanovs: The Crown Family (pictured, at 2:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18) uses diaries, letters, photos, and memoirs to reconstruct the last few months of Nicholas, Alexandra, and their brood. Panfilov calls his 2000 film psychological rather than historical, with an emphasis on private family life over public pomp. Made in 1991, Karen Shakhnazarov’s The Assassin of the Tsar (at 2 p.m. Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25) takes a more literary approach. Echoing the proto-existentialism of Chekhov and Dostoevski, the film transfers the story of the czar’s fall to one of the Soviet Union’s notorious mental institutions, where a psychiatrist gets overly engrossed in the case of a schizophrenic patient who insists he’s Nicholas’ killer. The program also features Shub’s The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 25), which was actually commissioned by the Bolshevik government to mark the 10th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Shub, one of the country’s first female directors, painstakingly surveyed old newsreel and official footage and then skillfully edited it to create an exceptional range of emotional effects. The festival runs to Saturday, May 25, at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)