Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  57 minutes
Date:  2009
Genre:  Expository
Language:  Estonian; Russian; English / English subtitles
Grade level: 11-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Lotman's World

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The story of Yuri Lotman (1922-1993), little-known - except maybe in Estonia! - pioneer of semiotics.

Lotman's World

Blending archival footage and imaginative animation (and periodic mash-ups of both), LOTMAN'S WORLD introduces us to the life and work of Yuri Lotman (1922-1993), a pioneer semiotician and cultural critic whose many writings in semiotics and structuralism dealt with a wide range of artistic, theoretical and historical issues.

Lotman studied philology and literature at Leningrad State University and served as a radio operator during WWII, but after the war Lotman was unable to continue his studies or find employment in Moscow because of anti-Semitism. In 1950 he began teaching at Tartu University in Estonia, which he found an oasis of free thought, where he could lecture and write and conduct research with likeminded educators.

Lotman's Tartu colleagues-including Boris Uspensky, Alexander Piatigorsky, Vladimir Toporov and Vyacheslav Ivanov-plus semioticians such as Umberto Eco and Peter Torop, discuss the cultural study of signs, signifiers and meanings, languages as both textual and visual structures, and reminisce about Lotman's talents as a lecturer and his brilliance as a thinker and writer.

In archival interviews, Lotman himself discusses the broader context of semiotics, which involves the relationship between culture and nature, the importance of moral qualities such as tolerance, intelligence, and self-respect, the true nature of freedom, and the overall meaning of life. Interviews with family members, including his older sister and his son, round out this portrait of Lotman as both human being and influential teacher and author.

'Agne Nelk's imaginative documentary is...a densely structured, informative, and often entertaining piece of popular science with a potential to impress both specialists and novices. ...Recommended for high school and college classes.' -Maxim Waldstein, Slavic Review (Spring 2011)


** Best Jewish Culture Film, 2008 Jewish Motifs International Film Festival
** Best Documentary Director, 2008 Minsk International Film Festival Listapad
** 2009 Jewish Eye Film Festival
** 2009 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam


Main credits

Nelk, Agne (Screenwriter)
Nelk, Agne (Director)
Pakk, Rein (Screenwriter)
Aarma, Kiur (Producer)
Lotman, ︠I︡U. M (Interviewee)
Siska, Rait (Animator)
Murd, Janek (Composer)
Tero, Erki (Composer)

Other credits

Cinematography, Elen Lotman ... [et al.]; editor, Hermes Brambat; music, Janek Murd, Erki Tero; animator, Rait Siska.

Distributor credits

A Film by Agne Nelk

Docuseek2 subjects

Critical Theory
Russia and the former Soviet Union
History of Ideas
Slavic Studies

Distributor subjects

Critical Theory
Cultural Studies
Eastern Europe
History (World)
Jewish Film Festivals
Media Studies
US and Canadian Broadcast Rights


Yuri Lotman; Lotman; Yuri; Estonia; Estoniian; academic; theory; theoretician; Semiotics; Semiology; semiotician; Einstein; Philology; Russia; Tartu; Umberto Eco; Linguistics; Animation; documentary; film; video; DVD,"Lotman's World",Icarus Films

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