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Game of Thrones Director Alik Sakharov Discusses Soviet Origins

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Sakharovs episode of Game of Thrones, 'The Climb' was lauded by many for its visual imagery.
    Photo: HBO

Prior to the start of the much-awaited fourth season of hit HBO series "Game of Thrones," many Russians were proud to hear that this season for the first time would feature a Russian actor: Yury Kolokolnikov, who will play Styrr, the Magnar of Thenn.

However, despite the attention that this announcement received in the Russian media, few fans are aware of another Russian speaker involved in the production of the popular show. Alik Sakharov, director of two episodes in the new season, was born in Uzbekistan and emigrated to the U.S. as a young man.

Despite having no formal film education, Sakharov managed to find work first as a cinematographer and, more recently, as a director, working on prestigious shows such as "The Sopranos," "Rome," "Boardwalk Empire," "Dexter" and "Game of Thrones." The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Sakharov recently about his rise to success and his current work on "Game of Thrones."

"I came to the U.S. in 1981 at the age of 22," Sakharov said. He moved to the Forest Hills neighborhood in New York City, a popular location for Russian immigrants described in literature by Russian writers such as Sergei Dovlatov and Gary Shteyngart.

"I had no expectations, I did not speak the language: I came to New York like a newborn baby," Sakharov said. "I was 22, I did not have any way of becoming a filmmaker, the only thing I wanted to do was not be hungry and not be on the street." Gradually, Sakharov worked his way through a series of menial jobs, ranging from pumping gas to washing floors, eventually landing a stable job as a watchmaker.

"I do not have any education in cinema, I just learned by getting my feet on the ground and getting my hands dirty," Sakharov said of his career in film. Sakharov had grown up watching films from Soviet masters like Andrei Tarkovsky and Alexander Dovzhenko, and had been curious about film from a young age.

While Sakharov had experimented with home videos while in the Soviet Union, once settled in Queens he started on a more ambitious project. Working as a watchmaker, he saved up enough money to buy basic video equipment and set about making a film about his own community of recent Russian immigrants.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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