Larisa Shepitko studied film at the Moscow Film Academy and the State Institute for Cinematography under famed director Alexander Dovzhenko. Her final school film Heat (1963) was nearly her last, as she grew so ill due to bad weather that she had to be removed on a stretcher. Her fellow student, Elem Klimov helped her edit it. The film won several awards in Russia, and she and Klimov married after he promised not to interfere in her work.
Shepitko was hired by the Russian government to contribute a segment to Beginning of an Unknown Era (1967), a propaganda piece for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. The film ended up being banned for 20 years because it was deemed insufficiently patriotic which threw Shepitko into a depression. The Ascent (1976), about two partisans trying to survive during the 1942 Nazi occupation, is considered her masterpiece and was inspired by Shepitko’s own brush with death while pregnant. The film brought her international acclaim and she served as a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1978. A year later, while working on her next film, The Farewell, she was killed with five crew members in a road accident in 1979.