Saving North: Rescuing The Wooden Churches of Northern Russia

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Virtual Cinema Thu, Nov 19 5:00 PM - Thu, Dec 3 11:59 PM
Introduction TBA
Q&A after the film with: Director J. Mitchell Johnson
Film Info
Run Time:78 min
Release Year:2020
Original Langauge:English
Cast/Crew Info
Director:J. Mitchell Johnson



Saving North is the story of a struggle for human and cultural survival in the mysterious and insular world of the Russian North. An outsider from England, photographer Richard Davies, enters this mysterious and vast region of the world with the hope of documenting both the glory and the tragic demise of its rapidly disappearing Wooden Churches. As Davies meets and becomes friends with some of his Russian photo subjects, he finds himself getting emotionally involved with their struggle. He decides to put down his camera and get involved with church restoration.


Early on in our story Davies befriends the famed Russian architect Alexander Popov who is deeply involved in working to preserve and share with the world the beauty and value of these ancient structures. Popov has uniquely discovered and reinvigorated both the tools and processes that restore life back to the North. But it’s an uphill battle against strong and powerful forces.


Together, Davies and Popov uncover the circumstances that led to the demise of the churches, and then join a small but growing group of passionate Russian citizens and outsiders from all walks of life who join the cause of Saving North.




J. Mitchell Johnson


Johnson, worked for four-time documentary Academy Award winner Charles Guggenheim after finishing the cinema graduate program at the University of Southern California. Later he founded his own independent media companies, J. Mitchell Johnson Productions, Inc. and Abamedia.


Johnson's directorial debut was for the PBS documentary about the 1977 Van Cliburn Piano Competition, "Contest to Carnegie Hall." This award-winning piece ushered subsequent PBS/A&E projects including USA (now Sundance) Festival-winner "Moses Pendleton Presents Moses Pendleton."


His work with Russian subjects began in 1995 with a 22-part television series produced for Russia's ORT, co-ventured with ABC News-New York. His interest in Russia inspired the year 2000 PBS prime-time Cold War television series, "Red Files," which won the International Documentary Association's "Best Limited Series" award.


Johnson's film, "World Without Waves," premiered at Moscow's International Film Festival in 2006 and won the Santa Fe Film Festival's Milagro Award (best American independent film) that same year.


In 2012 Johnson began a new slate of independent documentaries with SAVING NORTH. Films currently in production include "Remaining Human: Becoming Norbert Wiener" and "Coming Round: The Kashia Band of Pomo Struggle for Homeland."

Johnson is a past President of the Lone Star Film Festival. He serves on the board of San Francisco's TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy.


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