The Feasts of Belshazzar, or a Night with Stalin

The Feasts of Belshazzar, or a Night with Stalin or (Russian: Пиры Валтасара, или Ночь со Сталиным, translit. Piry Valtasara, ili noch so Stalinym) is a 1989 film adaptation of Fazil Iskander’s eponymous novella directed by Yuri Kara. In the 1990s the film was screened in the USA, including at the American congress. The title is a reference to Belshazzar’s feast, a chapter of the Book of Daniel.

…On 20 September 1906, a brazen robbery is committed on the passenger steamer “Tsesarevich Georgiy” near Sukhumi. Several hirsute men threatening with weapons, break open a cashbox which is transporting a large amount of money and having captured several hostages land on shore. Then they mercilessly kill the captured people and disappear into the mountains. After some time the leader and his assistant shoot and kill the accomplices and then the assistant gets a lead cartridge through his heart. The bloody leader remains alone with the loot but a shepherd boy named Sandro becomes an involuntary witness of his reprisal. The grim villain looks attentively at the frozen in terror teenager and… goes away by the mountainous road.

…Years pass. Sandro grows up and becomes participant of an Abkhazian dance ensemble. One evening by the order of chief party leader of Abkhazia, Nestor Lakoba, the entire creative team is called to perform before Joseph Stalin. The great leader comes with his associates to Abkhazia to have a good rest, he watches the dances with pleasure and listens to the songs of the peoples of the Caucasus, drinks a lot, merrily makes fun of others phone waistband. During the dance competition blindfolded Sandro manages to roll on his knees straight to the feet of Stalin double wall stainless steel bottle. This delights Stalin, he praises the skillful dancer but suddenly becoming glum asks a strange question-statement: “Somewhere I have seen you …” Sandro, pale with fear, finds a convincing excuse but then remembers water bottled in glass! The same ruthless murderer whom Sandro met in his distant childhood was in fact, Joseph Stalin…

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