Tech Film Wins Campus MovieFest Grand Finale

"Fanya Kaplan," directed by students Michael Gluzman and Brad Herrmann, won Best Picture at the Campus MovieFest National Grand Finale last Friday.

The film is a Russian-language historical narrative based on a woman who attempted to assassinate Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in 1918. The movie credits Kaplan's attempt with helping to start the Red Terror, in which thousands of people were arrested and executed without trial by Lenin's government.

Gluzman, an industrial design major, met Herrmann, a mechanical engineering student, at the Campus MovieFest competition last year. Herrmann had entered his film 'Casuality,' while Gluzman showed his movie 'Vendetta.' In addition to competing in CMF, Herrmann also runs the student organization Buzz Studios.

"We got to talking and made small talk about working together next year," said Gluzman.

Unlike most small talk, this conversation actually led to something and the two decided that this year they wanted to make a war movie. Gluzman came across Kaplan's story while doing research and decided that bringing it to fruition would be difficult enough to make it worthwhile.

The biggest challenge was filming the movie in Russian. None of the actors, except for Gluzman, knew the language, so he and friend Ildar Musin taught the actors all they needed to know for the film in about a week. Gluzman spent six hours working with lead actress and Herrmann's fiancée, Becky Tucker, and spent two hours working with co-star Matt Perry. In addition to the one-on-one language lessons, Gluzman gave his actors MP3s of himself reading the lines, so they could hear how they should sound.

"There was a lot of doubt as to whether we could pull it off in Russian," Gluzman said. "The other option was accents."

Like most historical films, the piece does take some liberties with the material. Gluzman said they added the roles of Kaplan's accomplices and a scene in an interrogation room to heighten the drama.

Born in the Soviet Union, Gluzman moved with his family to Atlanta in 1990, when he was three years old. He hadn't heard about Kaplan's story before he began researching for the film, but once he discovered it he found that his family was well-versed in the tale. According to Gluzman, even though Kaplan wasn't successful in assassinating Lenin that day, he was seriously wounded. The bullets, which were never removed from his neck, are speculated by some historians to have caused the stroke that took his life six years later.

The film was written by Gluzman's friend Wesley Wingo, a film student at New York University, and the original music was composed by Tech student Rolan Duvvury. Gluzman's father played the old Russian revolutionary song 'Varshavianka' on the accordion for part of the soundtrack.

Gluzman said he and Herrmann plan to restore a scene they had to cut to pare the film down to the regulation length of six minutes. The scene doubles the running time of the film, but would make it closer to their original vision. They plan to enter this newly edited director's cut into film festivals.