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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Interiors: Theater Buff Who Turned to Cinema

Samantha Hartley is passionate about theater. But in Moscow, where plays are cheap and abundant, she says she almost never goes. "I get so depressed when I do," she said, "because I really, really want to be working in theater but I just don't want to be poor." Economic imperatives led Hartley, 25, to her current job as director of the Americom House of Cinema, but it was theater that brought her to Russia in 1990, where she studied in drama and cinematography schools in Leningrad and Moscow. The experience was marred by a dearth of funding, of equipment and -- worst of all -- of talent. It was only when she began studying with Anatoly Vasilyev, a director who was "both true to the classics and doing something that had never been done before" that she rediscovered the enthusiasm she felt for Russian drama as a student at college in New York. Now living in a smallish apartment with a loud and dusty view of Leningradsky Prospekt, she and her husband Andrei have moved five times in the last three years. For the moment, most of their belongings are still in boxes and the flat retains its Russian feel -- the only obvious sign of American occupation is a tiny U.S. flag on the bookshelf. Hartley met her husband in 1991, in the less-than-romantic surroundings of the Finnish supermarket Stockmann. In fact, the place has served as a sort of dating-cum-employment agency for her, since it was there, too, that she ran into the director of the Americom Business Center, who offered her current job. "Stockmann was a very good store for me -- I found my job and my husband there," she said. "I still shop there -- who knows what else I'll find?" Her work for Americom involves choosing the films to be shown at the Radisson Slavjanskaya and, as a theater buff, her taste tends toward the innovative. However she thinks that, in Moscow, viewers prefer entertainment. "At the same time I don't want to give people candy constantly because they also want to be able to think about something," she said. "They want to be exposed to new experiences." True Confessions Gets mother to send over from United States: Thin Mints -- American Girl Scout cookies -- and okra. Film she would most like to bring to Americom House of Cinema: "Schindler's List." Film she would most like to make: "Being in Russia makes you very inclined to make documentaries because here real life is so much more interesting than fiction." Favorite directors: Andrei Tarkovsky, Jim Jarmusch: "They make films that are long and slow, and nothing happens, and the camera doesn't really move." Best way to relax: With cats Tiger and Skooky -- "It means shadow in Icelandic." Misses most from the old Russia: "Peoples' attitudes to foreigners have changed so much ... I just want to talk to my neighbors and have them not be freaked out by the idea that I'm a foreigner, meaning I'm strange or amazingly rich or have some secrets inside my apartment."