Berlin International Film Festival 2012

View other Berlin International Film Festival Films by strand: Berlinale Special, Berlinale Special Tribute, Competition, Culinary Cinema, Forum, Generation, German Cinema - LOLA@Berlinale, Happy Birthday, Studio Babelsberg, Homage, Panorama, Panorama Documentary, Panorama Special, Perspektive Deutsches Kino, Short Films

Accidental Meeting (Slutschajnaja wstretscha) (Country: USSR; Year: 1936; Director: Igor Sawtschenko; Stars: Jewgeni Samoilow, Galina Paschkowa, Walentina Iwaschjowa)
Pre-Stalinist social commentary in the Dzerzhinsky toy factory. Rarely seen since 1936.
Adventures of the Little Chinese (Prikljutschenija kitajtschat) (Country: USSR; Year: 1928; Director: Margarita Benderskaja)
Two poor Chinese children search the world looking for a free land. The Soviet Union greets them.
Aelita (Country: USSR; Year: 1924; Director: Jakow Protasanow; Stars: Julija Solnzewa, Walentina Kuindschi, Nikolai Zereteli)
Classic Science-fiction parable of love and jealousy.
Artek (Country: USSR; Year: 1936; Director: Fjodor Proworow, Wladimir Nesterow)
Documentary completely imbued with the spirit of the Stalin cult. It becomes apparent, in the most alarming way, how cunningly and profoundly the process of brainwashing was applied to young Soviet citizens.
The Backlog! (Proryw!) (Country: USSR; Year: 1930; Director: Lew Kuleschow)
Down with the idling and failure to meet the plan! Down with cheating – the backlogs must be cleared! Long live the Stakhanovites! In addition to major feature films and innovative documentaries, Kuleshov also received commissions for short agitprop films of this nature as supporting pictures. The subject matter was derived from the latest party slogans.
Black And White (Blek end uait) (Country: USSR; Year: 1932; Director: Leonid Amalrik, Iwan Iwanow-Wano)
Propoganda film charting the class struggle: black slaves against their white oppressors – and the audience is expected to show solidarity.
Chess Fever (Schachmatnaja gorjatschka) (Country: USSR; Year: 1925; Director: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Nikolai Schpikowski; Stars: Wladimir Fogel, Anna Semzowa, Natalja Glan)
In 1925, José Capablanca, the world chess champion at the time, takes on challengers in major public championships in Moscow, and the chess-mad city lines up to see him. One young chess fanatic even deliberately misses his wedding, causing his wife to leave him in despair. Only one person can change things for the better. And the world champion obviously does exactly what the tournament audience, his fellow players and, above all, the spectators, expect of him … And all around, a charming atmosphere and a sense of fairness prevail. Elegant, extremely funny and with close links between real scenes at the chess tournament in a Moscow theatre and the foreign guest: plus a charming love-story taken from daily life in Moscow. The turbulent action is combined with episodes about chess matches and players, thus creating a stylistically sound interlinking of both game and reality. A well-rounded, cohesive and entertaining film, especially since authentic contemporary chess masters and prominent protagonists of the film studio – some working as extras among the tournament audience – were also involved. And on top of this, the highly atmospheric documentary photographs of street life in “old” Moscow.Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York
The End of St. Petersburg (Konez Sankt-Peterburga) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Michail Doller; Stars: Aleksandr Tschistjakow, Wera Baranowskaja, Iwan Tschuweljew)
What makes someone a revolutionary? Ivan, who comes from a village, cannot believe his eyes when he sees Petersburg's feudal palaces. But behind their façades, the wartime profiteers are celebrating. Suddenly, Ivan gets caught up in revolutionary circles; he is sent first to prison and then to the front. Amidst the horrors of the world war, he finally attains maturity. As an ardent Bolshevik, he participates in the storming of the Winter Palace: “Petersburg no longer exists!”Only a short while before, Vsevolod Pudovkin had caused a sensation with MAT (The Mother). He had barely finished the film academy when a prestige project presented itself: he had the opportunity to make one of the jubilee films celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Revolution, alongside Eisenstein's intellectual OKTJABR (October). In 1927, both directors filmed mass scenes at the historical location almost simultaneously. In Pudovkin's film, however, far more of the Winter Palace’s windows were smashed… The rapid cuts, unusual perspectives and revolutionary pathos made him internationally famous as a director who filmed the Revolution. Central to his film were role models, faces of the Revolution and action that was easy to follow. As an author, director and actor, he became one of the most important figures at Mezhrabpom Film Studios.Print courtesy of Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich
Fairytale of the Evil Bear, the Spiteful Fox and the Cheerful Shepherd (Skaska o slom medwede, kowarnom lise i wesjolom pastuche) (Country: USSR; Year: 1936; Director: Dmitri Babitschenko, Aleksandr Bergengrin)
A promotional film à la Mezhrabpom-Film 1936: a peasant boy is good with anthropomorphised domestic animals, which grow and thrive. But only the best specimens will be presented at the exhibition of breeds, which is due to open soon.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Five Years of Soviet Russia (Pjatiletije sowjetskoi Rossii) (Country: USSR; Year: 1922; Director: Piano: Stephen Horne)
This film, commissioned by the workers’ relief organisation Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (IAH), was one of the very first films from and about the Soviet Union to be shown in Germany after the war. It was an early jubilee film, showing parades on the Red Square, as well as Trotsky and Willi Muenzenberg (IAH) at the 1922 Comintern Congress. – A rare document of contemporary history.For the Berlin premiere in 1923, the International Press Correspondence of the Communist International wrote: “This is the first film to directly familiarise the international working class with the lives and struggles of the Russian proletariat and, above all, with the Russian Red Army. It is not an art film. It contains neither artificial scenes, nor extras. Nor were any artists won over for this production. Instead, the viewer encounters Russian life and the thunder of the Russian Revolution in all their elementary force throughout the film. “In the end, the German censors decided not to classify the film as a threat to public order. The German Foreign Office was quite contented that “in the current situation” the film showed “that Russia meant something at a military level again”. The German Reichswehr, which was prohibited at the time, was secretly co-operating with the Red Army.Print courtesy of The Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, Krasnogorsk
Forty Hearts (Sorok serdez) (Country: USSR; Year: 1931; Director: Lew Kuleschow)
The new power stations are beating like hearts to the pulse of modernisation. At gigantic expense and effort, the Soviet Union is rapidly industrialised. The state plan foresees the construction of forty power-generation centres across the country. However, the people must first be enlightened about the nature and use of electrical current. Horses and tractors, households and industry, nature and the world of work, neon signs and the construction of power stations all depend on this miraculous new source of energy. Today it is once again a highly topical issue.The famous Soviet director Lev Kuleshov masterfully realises this project with documentary shots, acted scenes, and lots of creative trick sequences. After many of his students had already departed for the Mezhrabpom-Film studio, he too was given an opportunity there to make a “cultural film”. Drawing on his experience with feature films, he quickly made an exemplary popular scientific documentary using the most modern cinematic means. For a long time, the film was believed lost. Now, however, this hymn in praise of electric current can be seen here in Germany, too.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
For Our Daily Bread (Um's tägliche Brot) (Country: Germany; Year: 1929; Director: Phil Jutzi; Stars: Sybille Schloß, Holmes Zimmermann)
Today, this film is considered a classic of proletarian documentary film in pre-1933 Germany and a rarity within its genre. In the credits, the film is laconically referred to as “a film report”, with the supplementary remark: “There is reality and nothing else.” This strict self-restraint calls for a narrative style that the film, which lasts about three-quarters of an hour, consistently adheres to: a documentary with feature-film excerpts from the Silesian coal fields, dating from 1929. Leo Lania carried out research in the region and published the results in newspapers. Afterwards, he and Prometheus director Phil Jutzi made the film. The images of distress and poverty, reflecting the conditions in which the family had to live, are depressing. The feature-film scenes strewn in here and there support the purely documentary images. The accusatory pamphlet met the IAH's (Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe, a workers’ relief organisation) demand for solidarity. Speaking of his film, Phil Jutzi described the film work as a “mission” that served the “cultural development of humanity”.Fierce censorship debates and the film's unusual length restricted its screening in the cinemas. After 1933 it was banned in any case.Print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin
The Girl With the Hat Box (Dewuschka s korobkoi) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Boris Barnet; Stars: Anna Sten, Wladimir Michajlow, Wladimir Fogel)
How do you find a little piece of good fortune in a big city? Natasha, a young hat-maker, has to commute by train between her village and Moscow in order to deliver her creations to the extravagant Madame Irene. Madame registers Natasha as a sub-tenant so that she can claim more living space. The clumsy station master with the captivating smile courts the delightful country girl. Natasha, however, enters into a sham marriage with Ilya, a needy student, and, in this way, procures for him her own (already occupied) room in Moscow. It is only when a seemingly worthless lottery ticket appears, however, that things really start to become complicated …With its sound sense of style and socially critical approach, the film illustrates the contrasts between the city, the countryside new living conditions in Moscow. Three great and talented actors, Anna Sten, Ivan Koval-Samborsky and Vladmir Fogel form the triangular relationship. Although the film was, in fact, commissioned to promote the state lottery, it made the studio rich and Barnet – the natural talent who directed the film – famous. His invention of “lyric” comedy made the film a great success among audiences in Germany, too.Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
The Golden Lake (Solotoje osero) (Country: USSR; Year: 1935; Director: Wladimir Schnejderow; Stars: Iwan Nowoselzew, W. Tolstowa, Andrej Fait)
The shaman is still there. But now there is also a (Communist) scientist: a young geologist. And there is a portrait of Stalin hanging in the tent. Expeditions are underway in the Central Asian Altai Mountains to investigate the mineral resources, which the Soviet Union urgently needs in order to continue its industrialisation programme. And at the “golden spot” gold is discovered, which some bandits are also searching for. Hence, the film has all the conditions for an exciting story: a wild chase, a kidnapping, a murder, a forest fire, coincidences and even the deployment of a (modest) air fleet – right up to the fire at the end. The story is driven by the acute antagonisms between the indigenous peoples, the brave geologists, the bandits and a blonde beauty. The director had a wealth of experience with the studio's great expedition films (in the Retrospective programme, e.g. DVA OKEANA, Two Oceans). Hence, in between sections of thoroughly staged action, he was able to skilfully insert detailed intermediate scenes showing the region's virgin countryside, its fabulously lush vegetation and its wild animals in a manner that was both skilful and appropriate to the cinema.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Harbour Drift (Jenseits der Straße) (Country: Germany; Year: 1929; Director: Leo Mittler; Stars: Lissy Arna, Paul Rehkopf, Fritz Genschow)
A beggar, a prostitute and an unemployed man get caught up in lethal conflicts over a pearl necklace, which could mean their escape from poverty. Some jewellery lands right next to his feet. At long last, he, and the poor young boy lodging with him, have an opportunity to live a better life.
Horizon (Gorisont) (Country: USSR; Year: 1933; Director: Lew Kuleschow; Stars: Nikolai Batalow, Jelena Kusmina, Michail Doronin)
A melodramatic film with lots of ironic allusions, and Jewish melodies, shifting between comedy and tragedy. The story is borne entirely by the cheerful, nonchalant opportunism of the hero, Ljowa, played by the star of the day, Nikolay Batalov, who, with character and charm, wanders through an extremely varied illustrated broadsheet: from Tsarist Russia to New York, and back to the young Soviet Union. He feels safe and secure with his Jewish friends, although he does not practise religion himself. Despite all his efforts, and being constantly motivated by a creative and pristine sense of justice, he never succeeds in pursuing a social career. In the end, after many years, he is glad that he has at least become an engine driver.Entertaining sound material with sensitive genre paintings from New York, as people imagined them at the time, from the perspective of Moscow: public authorities and bosses, expressively staged scenes of violence and looting. An unconventional film by Lev Kuleshov. The title can be seen as a symbol.Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
The House on Trubnaya (Dom na Trubnoi) (Country: USSR; Year: 1928; Director: Boris Barnet; Writer: Nikolay Erdman, Anatoli Marienhof, Vadim Shershenevich, Viktor Shklovsky, Bella Zorich; Stars: Wera Marezkaja, Wladimir Fogel, Jelena Tjapkina)
Parasha, a “country bumpkin” has difficulties finding her way around in Moscow's bustling streets. But then, by chance, she encounters an acquaintance, who puts her up. She has just arrived from the remotest province, only to find herself in a metropolitan anthill. Almost every conceivable aspect of life is lived out in the hallway of the house in Trubnaya Street. Having no trade-union connections, Parasha gets a job working for a hair-dresser, who immediately starts exploiting her. An amateur dramatic performance at the workers' club, a confusion of names in an election to the city soviet, and a triumphal march through the streets of Moscow change her life profoundly.As they were if looking into a dolls-house, viewers can see how people treat one another in the new Russia and what they get up to. The flight from the land, age-old poverty and New Economic Policy shake up Moscow society completely. But everyone has to get on with everyone else in even the most confined of spaces. Barnet, the director, takes their trials and tribulations seriously. In this socially critical comedy, he not only finds his own style, but also discovers modern means of cinematic expression: a light, soft tone amidst all the screeching and sloganeering. Humour is when you laugh despite everything …Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
In the Shadows of Metropolis (Im Schatten der Weltstadt) (Country: Germany; Year: 1930; Director: Albrecht Viktor Blum)
The director, Albrecht Viktor Blum, referred to himself as a 'picture editor’: he pieced together documentary film material taken by other camera-people to create new, surprising and even shocking contexts of meaning. His approach was often bold. Nor did he worry too much about questions of copyright. His taste in, and feel for, cinematic language were combined with sensually powerful and realistic indictments of social injustices, as this glimpse at the dark sides of the city of Berlin in 1930 reveals.Print courtesy of Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
The Kiss of Mary Pickford (Pozelui Meri Pikford) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Sergej Komarow; Stars: Igor Iljinski, Anel Sudakewitsch, Mary Pickford)
Everything revolves around film stars. Dusya, a very discerning woman, has ambitions to make films and will only respond to the wishes of Gogo, her admirer, if he becomes at least as famous as the American film stars. After doing a veritable crash course as a stuntman, he goes to a studio. Just as he is giving his first performance, however, something sensational happens: the much-idolised screen stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks visit the studio – and during an improvised shot Mary gives Goga a kiss. Now all the women are after him and he soon finds his sudden fame a burden …In 1926, Pickford and Fairbanks are fired with enthusiasm as they watch Eisenstein's BRONENOSETS POTYOMKIN (Battleship Potemkin) in Berlin. Inspired by the film, they visit Moscow – the first international stars to do so. Mezhrabpom-Film invites the popular Americans to their studio and even shoots a few scenes with them on the spot. Sergei Komarov creates a little farce around the star cult. Igor Ilynski and Anel Sudakevich became Soviet film stars and the studio lands a box-office hit – much to the chagrin of its state competitors.Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World? (Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt?) (Country: Germany / Switzerland; Year: 1932; Director: Slatan Dudow; Stars: Hertha Thiele, Ernst Busch, Martha Wolter)
Kuhle Wampe is regarded a classic of proletarian film from the Weimar period.This rather simple story is about a working class family in Berlin caught between unemployment and eviction. The family finds a new home in the Kuhle Wampe camp-site by Berlin's Mueggelsee lake, celebrates a noisy wedding, and sceptically awaits the new addition to the family.While filming was still in progress, Prometheus (the production company) had to file for bankruptcy. The film was consequently completed by the Swiss film company Praesens. It was only after cuts had been made and public protests staged that the censors released the film. Even then, it was only shown for a limited period of time. In 1933, the film was banned by the National Socialists. The premiere in Moscow met with a muted response, because the social conflicts in Germany were too remote for Soviet audiences. Using montage techniques, which they had studied in films made by Mezhrabpom-Film, Dudow and Brecht created sharp contrasts. The film, containing songs by Hanns Eisler and vocals by Ernst Busch, attacked the idea that the world was unchangeable. The “Solidarity Song”, which was to become one of the classics of proletarian culture, could also be seen as a defining song of the “Red Dream Factory”.Print courtesy of Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
Let's Be Attentive! (Budem sorki) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Nikolai Chodatajew)
One of the creative domains for the special-effects people at Mezhrabpom-Film involved linking montages, facsimiles and simple line drawings with real scenes. With these means, as well as humour, the film promoted subscriptions to state-bank bonds.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
The Living Corpse (Schiwoi trup) (Country: Germany / USSR; Year: 1929; Director: Fjodor Ozep; Stars: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Maria Jacobini, Viola Garden)
A man, his wife, her lover – divorce is out of the question. There is only one way out: the agony of a feigned death. Fyodor Otsep’s film version of Leo Tolstoy's play is a classic example of the “East-meets-West” perspective adopted by the Mezhrabpom-Film studio and its German producer, Prometheus. This classical melodrama about a divorce that is prevented by both the church and the state is interwoven with avant-garde montages to create a social critique of pre-revolutionary Russia.A double exchange of roles: Otsep, the author, switches to directing once and for all; he emigrates to Germany and also embarks upon an international career in France and the USA. Vsevolod Pudovkin, in contrast, one of the most famous directors in Soviet film history, gives a commanding performance in his only leading role. The film's international perspective ensured its great success worldwide after it was premiere in Berlin in 1929. It has been handed down in diverse copies, but never in its original form. The new reconstruction – based on six different versions – by Österreichisches Filmmuseum and Deutsche Kinemathek is being shown at the Retrospective for the very first time.Print courtesy of the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna
Loss of the Sensation (Gibel sensazii) (Country: USSR; Year: 1935; Director: Aleksandr Andrijewski; Stars: Sergej Wetscheslow, Wladimir Gardin, Marija Wolgina)
Part science fiction, part class struggle – dreams and nightmares involving machines: Russian-style.To be on the safe side, this politically explosive issue is “relocated abroad”. Jim Ripple, an engineer, invents robots controlled by saxophones and radio signals. As far as the capitalists are concerned, this is the “solution to the proletarian problem”, and they immediately hit on the idea of creating an army of emotionless fighting machines. Jim's brother Jack is a workers' leader and organises strikes against the robots, who will produce nothing but unemployment. The humanoid machines are set on the strikers, but the workers fight back …Karel Čapek, a Czech, coined the term ‘robot’ in 1921. A few years after the appearance of Maria, the humanoid machine in METROPOLIS, and before Hollywood began deploying robots that would destroy the world, Mezhrabpom (in 1935) presented a menacing army of machines that operated between the fronts in the class struggle. Aleksandr Andriyevsky staged this ever-relevant subject with unprecedented expense and effort. He used the most modern technology – including television broadcasts. The closure of the Moscow film studio prevented this masterpiece from reaching an even larger audience.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Miss Mend (1) (Country: USSR; Year: 1926; Director: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet; Stars: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet)
This turbulent film employs literally all of the components of light-entertainment films: murder and manslaughter, a resurrected daughter, a vague yet dangerous conspiracy, dark secrets, a single mother, escape and persecution. As one would expect with this genre, the film has a happy end with all the joys of love and punishment of the culprits.These lively, varied and entertaining stories are told at breathtaking speed at all sorts of places. And the actors compete with one another when it comes to flexibility, physical exertion and humour.Each of the three episodes satirises, and pays homage to, European and Hollywood cinema, and also delivers solid and entertaining evidence that the artists at Mezhrabpom-Film had full command over all the means applied in making entertaining cinema at the time. Contemporary criticism in Moscow accused the first Soviet film trilogy of “flirting with capitalism” and of having a “decadent Western style”. In the process, it overlooked the great entertainment value of the films, which had apparently lost sight of the “goals of the Revolution”. Audiences ignored the official verdict.Print courtesy of Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich
Miss Mend (2) (Country: USSR; Year: 1926; Director: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet; Stars: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet)
This turbulent film employs literally all of the components of light-entertainment films: murder and manslaughter, a resurrected daughter, a vague yet dangerous conspiracy, dark secrets, a single mother, escape and persecution. As one would expect with this genre, the film has a happy end with all the joys of love and punishment of the culprits.These lively, varied and entertaining stories are told at breathtaking speed at all sorts of places. And the actors compete with one another when it comes to flexibility, physical exertion and humour.Each of the three episodes satirises, and pays homage to, European and Hollywood cinema, and also delivers solid and entertaining evidence that the artists at Mezhrabpom-Film had full command over all the means applied in making entertaining cinema at the time. Contemporary criticism in Moscow accused the first Soviet film trilogy of “flirting with capitalism” and of having a “decadent Western style”. In the process, it overlooked the great entertainment value of the films, which had apparently lost sight of the “goals of the Revolution”. Audiences ignored the official verdict.Print courtesy of Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich
Miss Mend (3) (Country: USSR; Year: 1926; Director: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet; Stars: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet)
This turbulent film employs literally all of the components of light-entertainment films: murder and manslaughter, a resurrected daughter, a vague yet dangerous conspiracy, dark secrets, a single mother, escape and persecution. As one would expect with this genre, the film has a happy end with all the joys of love and punishment of the culprits.These lively, varied and entertaining stories are told at breathtaking speed at all sorts of places. And the actors compete with one another when it comes to flexibility, physical exertion and humour.Each of the three episodes satirises, and pays homage to, European and Hollywood cinema, and also delivers solid and entertaining evidence that the artists at Mezhrabpom-Film had full command over all the means applied in making entertaining cinema at the time. Contemporary criticism in Moscow accused the first Soviet film trilogy of “flirting with capitalism” and of having a “decadent Western style”. In the process, it overlooked the great entertainment value of the films, which had apparently lost sight of the “goals of the Revolution”. Audiences ignored the official verdict.Print courtesy of Filmmuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich
Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness (Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück) (Country: Germany; Year: 1929; Director: Phil Jutzi; Writer: Willy Döll, Jan Fethke, Otto Nagel, Heinrich Zille; Stars: Alexandra Schmitt, Holmes Zimmermann, Ilse Trautschold)
In the middle of an economic crisis, the workers are living in poverty and struggling to find a little happiness and get a warm meal. Mother Krause lives with her two grown-up children, as well as a shady “bed lodger” and his lover – a prostitute with a child – on just a few square metres. In next to no time, tensions build up, and soon crime is involved too. Mother Krausen’s painstakingly preserved order collapses. This story has lost hardly any of its relevance. In those days, columns of marching workers calling out “Join the ranks!” indicated a possible way out. But the older generation went to the dogs.The project came about in honour of Heinrich Zille, who had died only a short while before. He had described his “milyeu” in great detail – all that was lacking now was the film. It was shot by Phil Jutzi, who was advised by Kaethe Kollwitz, in the style and spirit of Soviet Russian cinema – the Soviet films being imported and loaned by Prometheus, the production company. Rejecting banal entertainment and commercial success, Jutzi relied on the power of insight. A classic of proletarian cinema – and a key work of the “red dream factory”.Print courtesy of Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin
The New Life (Drugaja schisn) (Country: USSR; Year: 1930; Director: Juri Scheljabuschski, Aleksej Dmitriew)
Fuelled by oil, modernity is spreading to the steppes. Blessed with nationalised black gold, the Soviet state of Azerbaijan is flourishing. And although a gale is raging across the Caspian Sea, it is now too late to reverse the achievements of progress. The derricks are rising up alongside towers and minarets. Beneath them, the Soviet empire's first electric tram is running. Ten years after the foreign oil barons were driven out and the inhabitants are genuinely benefiting from country's natural resources. All the modern achievements are proudly presented: literacy courses for women, engineering courses, modern housing estates, day nurseries, seaside resorts and festive parades.Zhelyabuzhsky, the director, presents modern Baku and its inhabitants as the boom town of the East. In 1930, this festival film, made for the tenth anniversary of the state mineral oil company, crowned an entire film cycle. At long last, attention is being focused not only the technology but also on the people of Azerbaijan. They evidently still have to become accustomed to all the novelties of a “different way of life”.Print courtesy of The Russian State Documentary Film & Photo Archive, Krasnogorsk
One of Many (Odna is mnogich) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Nikolai Chodatajew)
A convincing combination of real scenes and cartoon sequences: the dream of a turbulent kidnapping – ending up in the glittering world of Hollywood and a rude awakening. The film pokes fun at the mass enthusiasm for Hollywood stars.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Problems of Our Time. How the Worker Lives (Zeitprobleme. Wie der Arbeiter wohnt) (Country: Germany; Year: 1930; Director: Slatan Dudow)
This film, which is only twelve minutes long, shows the insurmountable contrasts in Berlin around 1930. The title is accentuated by the down-to-earth comment in the opening credits: “This film arose in the middle of reality”. It thematises the appalling living conditions in this city of over a million inhabitants – and the merciless activities undertaken by house owners against the poorest social strata. The camera perspectives of the film in the rear courtyards of the tenement blocks seem like small-scale cinematic experiments: the distribution of the light and shadows – from bright surfaces and dark brickwork – suggest the stylistic proximity of the Bauhaus. And the interiors of the workers' kitchens and stairwells reveal a very detailed realism. In its indictment of the social misery in the proletarian districts of Berlin, the film closely resembles many of the drawings done at the time by Heinrich Zille, who sympathised with the workers’ relief organisation Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (IAH) and Mezhrabpom-Film.Print courtesy of Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
The Road to Life (Putjowka w schisn) (Country: USSR; Year: 1931; Director: Nikolai Ekk; Stars: Nikolai Batalow, Iywan Kyrlja, Michail Dschagofarow)
In this very first Soviet sound-film, the director, Nikolay Ekk, combined unusual sets with sound effects, which were a new feature at the time. In his story, he takes up an ideal fundamental to Soviet state doctrine: that of the “new man”, who is meant to be industrious, athletic and well-disciplined. Anyone deviating from this norm had to be educated to fulfil it: and this meant, above all, through work. This maxim applied to the whole of society and formed the core of the film's narrative. A group of young homeless people in Moscow survive by stealing and swindling. The state intervenes, gets the young people off the streets and sends them to a labour camp, which is officially called a commune. The main actor, an idealised hero and immaculate role model, is Sergeyev, an educator, who is based on the historical figure of Anton Makarenko.This simply structured and eventful fable benefits from the lively acting of the young laymen, who act out their own fate, and from the straightforward character of the educator, played by Nikolay Batalov: the star of Soviet cinema and prototypical proletarian hero. In this way, the film also departs from doctrine and develops a deeply moving life of its own.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Senka the African (Senka-afrikanez) (Country: USSR; Year: 1928; Director: Daniil Tscherkes, Juri Merkulow)
In dreams, anything is possible: even flying to faraway continents and playing with wild animals and fabulous creatures. When real films and cartoon films are brilliantly combined – and when the animation artists have splendid ideas and quickly realise them. A boy from Moscow falls asleep after a visit to a zoo, and dreams that he is in the company of exotic animals in faraway countries. When he awakens to harsh reality, he finds himself in his barren room in Moscow.Print courtesy of Gosfilmofond, Moscow
Skating Rink (Katok) (Country: USSR; Year: 1927; Director: Juri Scheljabuschski)
A matchstick man wants to dance, run and float – lightly and elegantly – in the skating rink. And the cartoonists want to demonstrate the elegance and lightness of his lines and figures. A nasty clash with other ice-skaters underlines the gracefulness of the complex interplay of movements. The thin ink-lines representing the figures and décor associate the almost infinite possibilities of drawing and filming fast movements – with smooth skate-runners – on ice. An entertaining little film – witty and fast moving – produced in what was still a young Mezhrabpom-Film cartoon-film workshop – free from advertisements and ideology.Print courtesy of La Cinémathèque de Toulouse
Songs of Heroes (Komsomol) (Pesn o gerojach) (Country: USSR; Year: 1933; Director: Joris Ivens)
“This is Moscow speaking! We want metal!” Afanassjev, a young worker, and his comrades in the Komsomol youth organisation hear the call. In next to no time, they build the Magnitorgorsk Combine in the steppes from scratch. The combine then supplies the ore – the raw material for the turbo-industrialisation of the Soviet Union.Joris Ivens, from Holland, was commissioned by Mezhrabpom-Film to make this documentary symphony in the style of the New Objectivity. The music was composed of the noises made by the Magnitogorsk Combine, working in co-operation with Hanns Eisler. They thus created a genuine industrial soundtrack for one of the very first Soviet sound-film documentaries. At the same time, Dziga Vertov made a similar sound-film, TRI PESNI O LENINE (Three Songs of Lenin) for the studio. Both experimented with the new medium, although Ivens adopted a different approach. Applying motifs of the steppes and the city, the past and the future, he staged and condensed situations, with the aim of convincing viewers dialectically of the need for all the colossal construction work. The remixing of modern tones – factory noises, telephones, radios and Eisler's exciting music – is particularly successful.Print courtesy of Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
Storm Over Asia (Potomok Tschingis-chana) (Country: USSR; Year: 1929; Director: Wsewolod Pudowkin; Stars: Waleri Inkischinjow, Lew Dedinzew, L. Belinskaja)
A fairy tale from remote worlds and times, full of mysterious images, ritual dances and wild hunting scenes.
St. Jorgen's Day (Prasdnik Swjatowo Jorgena) (Country: USSR; Year: 1930; Director: Jakow Protasanow; Stars: Anatoli Ktorow, Igor Iljinski, Michail Klimow)
Silent film mines comedy from a supposed saint and a clown.
Terrible Vavila and Auntie Arina (Grosny Wawila i tjotka Arina) (Country: USSR; Year: 1928; Director: Olga Chodatajewa, Nikolai Chodatajew)
Employing the stylistic means of a Russian fairy tale, the cartoon film makes fun of the way men and women come to terms with one another. But nobody really wins.
Thaw (Ledolom) (Country: USSR; Year: 1931; Director: Boris Barnet; Writer: K. Grobunov, O. Meleg, S. Yevlakhov; Stars: Wera Marinitsch, Aleksandr Schukow, Anton Martynow)
A film of stark contrasts: the bitter poverty of the peasants amidst the rich countryside and the simple life of luxury of a few kulaks: beatings, alcohol, a child lost in play, denunciation and murder, the beautiful yet severe changes of the seasons – and an existential contradiction between state pressure and the fragile cohesion of a village community that is inwardly torn apart.
Torn Shoes (Rwanyje baschmaki) (Country: USSR; Year: 1933; Director: Margarita Barskaja; Stars: Michail Klimow, Iwan Nowoselzew, Anna Tschekulajewa)
The first Soviet film and also the first that Mezhrabpom-Film made explicitly with children for children. The fable is set in a nameless German port in the early 1930s where the class struggle even reaches as far as the classroom, where it results in wild and magnificently staged fights between the pupils.
Two Oceans (Dwa okeana) (Country: USSR; Year: 1933; Director: Wladimir Schnejderow, Jakow Kuper)
Polar bears, broken propellers, the icy cold and whiteness as far as the eye can see. The expedition is not heading towards the North Pole, however, but towards the East: across the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific.
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