Khanan Shmain


Khanan Shmain was a scriptwriter, theatre and film director, renowned comedian, and a disciple of Les Kurbas.

He was born in Kyiv region. In the autumn of 1921, when Kyidramte moved to Bila Tserkva, 19-year-old Khanan entered the drama studio of the theatre.

From 1923 to 1928, he worked in Berezil directing laboratory and assisted Kurbas in a number of productions. He also played in Kharkiv Variety Show Merry Proletarian.

In 1930, Shmain moved to Odesa, where he started working at the Film Studio. Together with Vasyl Chechvianskyi, the editor of Chervonyi Perets journal and Ostap Vyshnia’s elder brother, he wrote the script and shot the satirical film Casket (1930) devoted to the purge of Soviet bureaucracy. The same year, Khanan’s son Illia was born, who later became a famous theologian and Orthodox priest. 

The following year, Shmain and his family moved to Kyiv, where he made his feature-length directorial début Pigs Will Always Be Pigs (Свині завжди свині) (1931), a satirical comedy that ridiculed Soviet bureaucracy, petite bourgeoisie, provincialism and formalism reduced to absurdity by disorder and sabotage.

Shmain’s next film was another comedy Enjoy Your Meal (Смачного!) (1933). Shmain co-wrote the script for the film with a future Stalin Prize winner and deputy Oleksandr Korniichuk.

In 1936, together with Ihor Ilinskyi, Shmain made his last and most famous film at Kyiv Film Studio, the comedy Once in Summer (Якось улітку), based on the script by Ilf and Petrov. After the execution of Les Kurbas and under pressure from the critics, Shmain and his family moved to Moscow.

In 1941, he volunteered for the front and became a German war prisoner. Rescued by his fellow countrymen from Bila Tserkva, during the post-war period Shmain was associated with Mosfilm, where he shot two films, Dangerous Rail (Небезпечна рейка) (1952) and Hypnosis Session (Сеанс гіпнозу) (1953). In the 1960s, he worked as a director of the scientific film studio Mosnaukfilm.