Svetlana Parshina was deeply moved by her childhood reading of Twenty Letters to a Friend by Svetlana Alliluyeva, Joseph Stalin's daughter. Years later, learning that the now 82-year-old was living incognito in a Madison, Wisconsin retirement home, Parshina phones and requests an interview.
After repeated denials, and only after insisting upon certain conditions, the now-82-year-old Alliluyeva finally consents to a rare filmed interview in which she discusses her education, marriages, her children, the development of her own humanistic philosophy, her CIA-assisted defection to the U.S., and her skeptical views on the competing Cold War ideologies.
In more intimate moments, she discusses her childhood, her nanny, the suicide of her mother, her brothers Vasily and Yakov (who died in a Nazi concentration camp) and, of course, her famous father, who most Soviets saw as "a living god." Her poignant and often candid reminiscences, and a few humorous anecdotes, are combined with archival footage and photos, including numerous family snapshots.
SVETLANA BY SVETLANA thus offers a rare glimpse of what it was like to be the daughter of a man who had too much power.
"Short but fascinating... a captivating and at times moving story... Judging by [my studentsí] response, this documentary is ideal material for courses in twentieth century history. Highly Recommended." —Educational Media Reviews Online
Best Directorial Debut, 2008 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival
2008 Orlando Film Festival
2008 Women in Film and TV Showcase
2008 Molodist Kyiv Film Festival (Ukraine)
2008 SCENECS Film Festival
"A must-watch... Definitely for history buffs." —ANutShellReview.com
"A value of the film for the historian...is to hear Svetlana occasionally corroborating views she wrote some fifty years ago, showing that her judgments concerning her father have not changed with time...The documentary presents an effusive, outgoing eighty-two-year-old woman whose warm persona did not come from her father." —Beatrice Farnsworth, Slavic Review (Spring 2011)