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Filming Psychiatry in Russia and making some money with it


Making Psychiatry in Russia; Bill Worthy and the Romanian Embassy; meeting members of Politburo
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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And- and so I got to Russia but still without any guarantee that I could get into a mental hospital. Two days after I arrived, I met a correspondent from the Baltimore Afro American- His name was Bill Worthy and he also was a stringer from CBS so he kind of knew the ropes. And I told him of my desire to visit mental hospitals and he said- Well, two days from now I'm going to the Romanian Embassy; there's a reception there where- I think it might be interesting for you to go there. Maybe you'll meet somebody that can help you out. And, he said- I'll try to get you an invitation as well. But he couldn't get the invitation but he said well, come along anyway. And so when we got to the Romanian Embassy which, of course, had half a dozen KGB guys at the door, he presented his invitation and they asked for his passport, and he got through okay. And, without anybody noticing, he slipped his invitation back to me and then I showed it and my passport and they noticed that the names were different. And it turned out that everybody made a joke of it and the KGB guy said, you know- waved me on. And all this without any words because neither one of us could speak Russian. When we got inside, there were plenty of interpreters, right, and the first person I met was the American Ambassador. And then I met all those people that were so familiar by name to Americans: Malenkov, who was the natural heir to Stalin who had died only two years before. He was being ousted. There was Mikoyan. There was Kaganovich. There was Pervukhin who also in the Politburo- the highest ranking group under Stalin. And Pervukhin was very curious. Malenkov was so curious that he asked me, you know- what are you doing here. And I said- I'm a psychologist and I'm hoping to visit mental hospitals. And I suppose because of the kind of paranoia that he was experiencing as all these other guys were trying to get rid of him- his comment was: we always think the other person is crazy. And- but Pervukhin came back to me with the phone number and he said- call this number and you're all set. It was for a Dr Babion who was the Head of Psychiatry for the whole Soviet Union. And so the next day I called Dr Babion and I was on my way to making my movie.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Rebekah Maysles Tamara Tracz Sara Maysles

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tags: Russia, Baltimore, CBS, KGB, Politburo, Soviet Union, Bill Worthy, Joseph Stalin, Georgy Malenkov, Anastas Mikoyan, Lazar Kaganovich, Mikhail Pervukhin

Duration: 3 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008