Angel Wagenstein: Art Is a Weapon

(Angel Wagenstein: Art Is a Weapon)

2017, 84 min, color/b&w


This provocative portrait of the Bulgarian-Jewish scriptwriter and novelist, Angel Wagenstein (1922-2023), offers a fresh perspective on the past century. It takes viewers down unfamiliar historical and ideological paths and revisits the revolutions of 1989 and after with a critical eye. The director introduces viewers to a brilliant and charismatic storyteller, for whom art became a form of resistance against a series of oppressive and corrupt regimes. Interviews with Wagenstein reveal his remarkable wit and intellect. Simon’s film is a must-see chronicle of a complicated history through the eyes of an artist who spoke truth to power throughout his storied career.
The documentary includes clips from many of Wagenstein’s films, including his East German DEFA productions—Stars, The Little Prince, Chronicle of a Murder, Goya and Eolomea.



The film is also available for a Digital Site License for educational partners. Please find more information here.




2022 Retrospective Wagenstein100, DEFA Film Library Amherst, MA  
2019 Nominated for the John E. O'Connor Film Award, American Historical Association  
2019 Rolling Docs Traveling Documentary Festival, Bulgaria
2019 Augusta Jewish Film Festival, Evans, USA
2018 Barcelona Jewish Film Festival, Spain
2018 Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, Amherst, USA
2017 CineLibri Film Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria
2017 Official Selection, Jewish Film Festival Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany
2017 Washington Jewish Film Festival, USA
2017 Documentary Audience Award, SEEfest South East European Film Festival Los Angeles, CA
2017 Official Selection, New York Jewish Film Festival, New York

Press comments

“Angel Wagenstein's life was dramatic, his work is a chronicle of the 20th century. Following the recent death of the left-wing Bulgarian artist at the age of 100, his films are waiting to be rediscovered and rediscovered.”   —JACOBIN Magazine, 2023


Art Is a Weapon has a strong autobiographical component due to the lengthy interview excerpts with Wagenstein, which are combined with archival material, clips from his movies, and commentary by friends, collaborators, and film historians. An engrossing portrait of a significant figure in Eastern European post-war cinema, this is highly recommended.”   —Video Librarian


“Angel Wagenstein’s life and work are a secret history of the twentieth century.”   —Elizabeth Frank, American novelist, biographer, and translator


“…a meditation on what his life and films reveal about the intimate realities of Cold War culture in a divided and contentious post-war Europe, and the vertiginous transformations of 1989 and after in the former Eastern Bloc states.”   —New York Jewish Film Festival


“His considerable output in cinema - over 50 films - deserves greater recognition outside the former Warsaw Pact countries; but the vagaries of film distribution, beset by commercial exigencies and political tensions, have left him all but unknown outside Eastern Europe.  Seeing Simon’s graceful, handsome and intelligent film, and being delighted by Wagenstein’s earthy, candid wit, one hopes that the situation can be ameliorated.”   —The New York Jewish Week


“The scriptwriter, author, socialist, and political activist Angel Wagenstein is not a household name in the English-speaking world, though Andrea Simon's bracing documentary about him suggests that he should be. ... Simon wisely keeps the always fascinating Wagenstein at the center of her film, skillfully weaving the complex tapestry of this dynamic life and work into a vivid, but candid, portrait. Is it time for a Wagenstein retrospective?” —Cineaste


“The USSR had Sergei Eisenstein, while Bulgaria had Angel Wagenstein. … The life and work of the 94-year-old screenwriter and novelist are wonderfully depicted in Andrea Simon’s top-notch documentary.  . . . I am delighted to report that Angel Wagenstein: Art is a Weapon was 'weaponized,' winning SEEFest's Documentary Audience Award." —People’s World


“Masterful … every moment of Angel Wagenstein: Art is a Weapon will stay with you.” —Womens Voices for Change



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