Alexandr Sokurov is a Russian director of avant-garde and independent films that have won him international acclaim. A son of an army officer, Sokurov was born in 1951, and spent his childhood traveling with his family around Russia as his father was transferred from one location to another. This fast change of places and schools kept him lonely; he never had close friends and liked to spend his free time by himself withdrawn into the world of his own. After school he studied history and completed a BA degree course. By that
time, however, he had made up his mind to become a film maker and in 1975 he moved to Moscow to study at VGIK-a state film school, one of the most prestigious and major one of its kind in Russia. In the years that followed he made several shorts, none of which was liked by his teachers. His works were described as "weird, formal, and mannered" but never "talented" or "promising". In the end, Sokurov entered into an open conflict with his mentors and dropped out of
BGIK; nevertheless it was during his years there that he met Andrey Tarkovsky, whom he later befriended. Tarkovsky was the first to notice Sokurov's gift and to tell him that he was going to have a brilliant career - provided he found his own style and stayed true to it, and it was with Tarkovsky's backing that Sokurov found an employment at Lenfilm - the second largest film studio in Russia. His feature debut The Lonely Human Voice (1987) was not released until the early 1990s
because the studio chiefs saw an anti-government stance in it. A man of a rare strength, Sokurov managed to complete several films in a year. Produced at the same time, Mournful Insensibility (loosely adapted from Bernard Shaw's A Heartbreak House) was a commercial failure because it proved to be very difficult for common cinema-goers, but pleased critics who reckoned Sokurov as a budding auteur with a vision of his own. He kept on making highly personal, artistic films that won art house fans acclaim - first in Russia and then around the world.
Often without a plot, but with emphasis on aesthetics and impressionism, his films are noted for their philosophical approach to history and nature. Besides, Sokurov's casting of ordinary people instead of professional actors was his trademark. The simultaneous different interpretations that can be drawn from his films sometimes make them very bizarre. The most recent example is his 'Father and Son', which premiered at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. The film worried critics since some saw in it what was described as "homosexual relationships involving close relatives". However Sokurov denied it. His Russian Ark (2002) is an experimental film which is actually a single 96 mn long shot. In the 1990s, Sokurov announced the plan to make a trilogy about the most powerful political leaders of the 20th century.