Finding Babel
Finding Babel
Finding Babel
Item#: FBB-1108
Choose License:  Format: 

Running Time: 88 minutes
With Special Features

Grades 10 - Adult
Scene Selection • Closed Captioned
A Film by David Novack



“A powerful exploration of the links between the life and works of the Ukrainian-Jewish author who fell afoul of Stalin's regime. Babel may have written about specific events he witnessed, but his overarching themes make his work resonate as much today as when they did nearly a century ago.”
– Moscow Times

"The little details are what makes Finding Babel so successful. As Maleev-Babel follows his grandfather’s footsteps, the film unspools in a chorus of voices. We hear from fans of Babel about what his work means to them, from people who remember Babel, from people who saw firsthand the same atrocities that Babel witnessed.”
– Seattle Review of Books

“By exploring the closed pages of the life of an outstanding writer...[Novack] reveals something new in the life of modern Russia.”

“Introduces Babel (who is revered in Russia) to the Western world, while also bringing his words to life and making the author…relevant to the modern world. An eye­-opening look at the plight of a man who criticised the party he was loyal to and paid the ultimate price. A timeless warning to all of the dangers of any totalitarian regime.”
– Paul Carson, Examiner.com

“An exquisite...blockbuster documentary.”
– Vitaly Mansky, President, Artdocfest

“An excellent and emotionally laden new film."
– The Odessa Review

“An extraordinary documentary film."
– Giulio Meotti, The Gazette

“Proof of the relevance of historical dramas... This film documents the search for the tragic end of the great Odessa writer. The idea that the country is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again kept being hit upon in the film.”
– Alexander Gusev, UP Kultura

“At a time when Russia is once again rattling its international sabre, and clamping down on civil liberties, a documentary exploring one Soviet writer’s persecution at the hands of Stalin and the USSR’s secret police feels all too timely. Luscious prose as read by Liev Schreiber is juxtaposed against the cruel, brutal reality of the world it portrays, as Babel’s writing never shied away from the grotesque abuses perpetrated by the Soviet state following the communist revolution.”
– Warren Cantrell, Scene-Stealers.com

Moscow Jewish Film Festival


-Seattle International Film Festival - North American Premiere
-Odessa International Film Festival
-Haifa International Film Festival
-Molodist 45th Kyiv International Film Festival
-ArtDocFest, Moscow
-Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, Estonia
-Moscow Jewish Film Festival





All prices include DVD and limited Public Performance Rights
• K-12 Schools, Public Libraries & Community Groups: $89
• Colleges, Government, Business: $295
• Colleges, Government (with DSL): $395

Featuring the voice of Liev Schreiber

Finding Babel follows the grandson of famed Russian-Jewish author Isaac Babel as he searches for answers to better understand the enigmatic man he never met. Babel’s writings, considered masterpieces of Russian literature, challenged the reality of life under rising Soviet totalitarianism, leading to his execution as part of Stalin's purges in 1940.

Andrei Malaev­-Babel journeys through locations deeply tied to the life and writings of his grandfather, where he confronts lingering traces of a turbulent history that echo in Babel’s stories and in the climate and conflicts of today’s Ukraine and Russia. With each stop, Andrei gets closer to the truth about his grandfather and the complex stories that he wrote with depth and hidden meaning.

Mentored by Maxim Gorky, Babel was thrust upon the international stage with Red Cavalry, a bold war narrative, followed by Odessa Stories. His many short stories and stage plays examined Soviet society with a critical eye. Woven into the film are excerpts from Babel’s writings read by actor Liev Schreiber, coupled with unique, ethereal animations that serve to illustrate Babel’s works.

Ultimately, through powerful interviews, including Babel’s widow, and a painful examination of his formerly secret case file, Andrei learns more of the details of his grandfather’s arrest, torture and execution. As the first American film crew allowed inside KGB archives, Andrei and the filmmakers gained unprecedented access to Babel’s file. Chillingly, Andrei found his grandfather’s last act of writing -- not a hoped for lost manuscript or personal letter -- but rather a shaky signature officially acknowledging his death sentence.

The search for Babel shows that although the author was executed, his works still resonate powerfully with lessons for today.


-Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Nobel-nominated Russian poet
-Antonina Pirozhkova, Babel's wife and Andrei's grandmother
-Marina Vlady, renowned Russian-French actor
-Vitaly Shentalinsky, author of ARRESTED VOICES: Resurrecting the Disappeared Writers of the Soviet Regime


• Story of My Dovecot - Odessa Pogrom (6:32)
• Deleted Scenes (4:14)