Trav­els with my fa­ther the ‘spy’

Stu­art Ur­ban ’s film about his dad’s wartime ad­ven­tures led to some wel­come fam­ily bond­ing, he tells Alex Kas­riel

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

MOST FILM direc­tors rely on the whim of dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies to get their movies shown. Not Stu­art Ur­ban, who has man­aged to get his doc­u­men­tary fea­ture, To­varisch, I am Not Dead, screened in Lon­don at the Na­tional Film Theatre and the Swiss Cot­tage Odeon af­ter send­ing copies of the work to the cine­mas him­self. “I had had the usual rounds of re­jec­tions or be­ing ig­nored,” says the 49-year-old Ur­ban, who is best known as one of the direc­tors of the 1996 BBC TV drama se­ries Our Friends in the North. “Dis­trib­u­tors can be nar­row-minded.”

Ur­ban’s award-win­ning film is about his charis­matic fa­ther Garri’s ex­tra­or­di­nary ad­ven­tures through Nazi Europe and Soviet Rus­sia. It doc­u­ments how, in 1992, fa­ther and son trav­elled to the for­mer Soviet Union to re­trace Garri’s steps af­ter es­cap­ing Nazi-oc­cu­pied Poland and find­ing him­self work­ing in the Siberian labour camps. Garri at­tempts to get hold of his KGB files which still list him as an “in­ter­na­tional spy”. It was a risky busi­ness, with the pair get­ting ar­rested on one oc­ca­sion.

But Ur­ban — who lives in South-West Lon­don with his wife Dana and two teenage chil­dren — was keen to doc­u­ment the ex­pe­ri­ence. “I would not say that it helped the re­la­tion­ship with my fa­ther, be­cause there were ups

and downs. But I think, with­out say­ing it openly, he was glad his son was with him in this time.”

Ur­ban chose not to re­lease the film un­til af­ter his fa­ther died in 2004. “He felt it was all too much,” he says. “He didn’t want it be shown. How­ever, nearer the time that he died he re­vised his views. He would be happy to see it win­ning awards and be­ing shown in Bri­tain. He would be schep­ping nachas, as he would say.” To­varisch, I am Not Dead is at the Odeon Swiss Cot­tage un­til May 9. Visit www. to­ for fu­ture screen­ings

Stu­art Ur­ban: risky jour­ney

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