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Game of Thrones Director Alik Sakharov Discusses Soviet Origins

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Sakharov’s 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

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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