The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon

Institute History

  • 1989 June Screenwriters Lab


Upon the death of Lenin in 1924, a vicious power struggle breaks out among Party and Red Army leaders for political control. As an attempt to counter Stalin's growing authority, Michail Frunze, a civil war and revolutionary hero, emerges as an alternative. Loyal to the spirit of the 1917 Revolution, but tolerant of debate, Frunze is widely seen as a humanist alternative to both Stalin's brutality and Trotsky's arrogance.

While appearing to embrace Frunze's new role, Stalin maneuvers him into taking an unnecessary medical exam ("Your health belongs to the Party")—and further manipulates doctors into using an ill-prescribed anesthesia. The resulting operation shows nothing to be wrong, but Frunze lapses into a coma and dies shortly thereafter. At his funeral, Stalin says: "Perhaps it is like this that the old guard should descend to graves so easily and quickly leaving room for the young." Over the next 30 years, many of course would descend to their graves.

Frunze's death was a turning point in Soviet history, the last significant challenge to Stalin, whose iron-handed rule would crush generations of lesser opponents.

Boris Pilnyak, the author of "The Tale of the Unextinguished Moon," himself fell victim to Stalin's purges in the 30's.


As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]