'Hipsters'

It’s not often that a film festival offers free swing-dance lessons and a performance by a jazz-swing orchestra to celebrate a screening, but then Russian director Valery Todorovsky’s toe-tapping take on the jazz counterculture of the 1950s Soviet Union, “Hipsters,” is quite unlike any other Russian film made recently.

The first Russian musical produced since long before the fall of the Iron Curtain, “Hipsters” unspools in Toronto’s Vanguard section alongside such films as British director Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank” and Canadian helmer Reginald Harkema’s tale of the trial of Charles Manson, “Leslie, My Name Is Evil.”

Quite unlike many independent films currently coming out of Russia, in which bleak nihilism is the dominant theme, Todorovsky’s beautifully choreographed and scored film has a joie de vivre that transcends cultural and national boundaries.

The son of a famed Soviet-era director, Pyotr Todorovsky, Valery is not a director who shies away from tough topics. His 1998 film “The Land of the Deaf” was set in the underworld of St. Petersburg, and in 2004 he tackled the devastating effects of the Chechen war on a young Russian man in “My Step Brother Frankenstein.”

Festival auds can take advantage of free swing-dance lessons and a live performance by Aelita with the Galaxy All-Star Orchestra in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on Sept. 15.

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