Post-Revolution Nonfiction Film
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Social reform through film

In the charged atmosphere of post-revolution, artistic and political forces often join in the effort to reimagine a new national space for a liberated people. Joshua Malitsky examines nonfiction film and nation building to better understand documentary film as a tool used by the state to create powerful historical and political narratives. Drawing on newsreels and documentaries produced in the aftermath of the Russian revolution of 1917 and the Cuban revolution of 1959, Malitsky demonstrates the ability of nonfiction film to help shape the new citizen and unify, edify, and modernize society as a whole. Post-Revolution Nonfiction Film not only presents a critical historical view of the politics, rhetoric, and aesthetics shaping post-revolution Soviet and Cuban culture but also provides a framework for understanding the larger political and cultural implications of documentary and nonfiction film.

1. Introduction: Revolutionary Rupture and National Stability
Part 1
2. Kino-Nedelia, Early Documentary, and the Performance of a New Collective, 1917-1921
3. A Cinema Looking For People: The Individual and the Collective in Immediate Post-Revolutionary Cuban Nonfiction Film
Part 2
4. The Dialectics of Thought and Vision in the Films of Dziga Vertov, 1922-1927
5. (Non)Alignments and the New Revolutionary Man
Part 3
6. Esfir Shub, Factography, and the New Documentary Historiography
7. The Object of Revolutionary History: Santiago Álvarez' Commemorative Newsreels and Chronicle Documentaries, 1972-1974



Publié par
Date de parution 20 mars 2013
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9780253007704
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 3 Mo

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Post -Revolution Nonfiction Film
New Directions in National Cinemas Jacqueline Reich, editor
Post -Revolution Nonfiction Film
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press 601 North Morton Street Bloomington, Indiana 47404-3797 USA
Telephone orders800-842-6796 Fax orders812-855-7931
© 2013 by Joshua Malitsky
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Malitsky, Joshua. Post-revolution nonfiction film : building the Soviet and Cuban nations / Joshua Malitsky. p. cm. — (New directions in national cinemas) 1. Documentary films—Political aspects—Soviet Union. 2. Documentary films—Political aspects—Cuba. I. Title. PN1995.9.D6M329 2013 070.1’80947—dc22 2012037385
1 2 3 4 5 18 17 16 15 14 13
For Anne
Introduction: Revolutionary Rupture and National Stability PART ONE 1Kino-Nedelia,Early Documentary, and the Performance of a New Collective, 1917–1921 2 A Cinema Looking for People: The Individual and the Collective in Immediate Post-Revolutionary Cuban Nonfiction Film PART TWO 3 The Dialectics of Thought and Vision in the Films of Dziga Vertov, 1922–1927 4 (Non)Alignments and the New Revolutionary Man PART THREE 5 Esfir Shub, Factography, and the New Documentary Historiography 6 The Object of Revolutionary History: Santiago Álvarez’s Commemorative Newsreels and Chronicle Documentaries, 1972–1974
Notes Bibliography Filmography Index
Financial support for this book came from a variety of sources. My travel, research, and writing was supported by fellowships and grants from the graduate school and Center for International and Comparative Studies (CICS) at Northwestern University as well as by a summer Mellon Fellowship from the Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at Indiana University. In addition, the Department of Communication and Culture (CMCL) at Indiana University provided me a semester’s leave to write. Michael Chanan discussed Cuban (and Soviet) cinema with me at length, constantly responding to my queries, and helped establish my contacts in Havana. Those in Cuba with whom I worked and played and whom I would like to thank are Santiago Álvarez’s widow, Lazara Herera; my translator, Vanessa Pedrosa; my social coordinator, Julia Cooke; Nelson Rodrigues; Pepin Rodriguez; Mario Piedra; Susan Lord; and my savior and hero, Maria Caridad Cumana. John Hess was thoughtful in his responses to my questions, and I thank him for his suggestions. On the Soviet side, I would like to thank Ilya Kutik, Richard Taylor, Graham Roberts, Barbara Wurm, John MacKay, Masha Salazkina, and Seth Feldman for their work and correspondence. A special note of thanks goes to Yuri Tsivian, whose pragmatic and scholarly advice helped an earlier version of this work immensely and whose thinking continues to shape my own. Yuri curated the Vertov program at the 23rd Pordenone Silent Film Festival, making available the largest collection of Vertov’s newsreels and silent features ever assembled. His accompanying collection of Vertov-related documents,Lines of Resistance, played no small part in making this and other studies of Vertov possible. My research at the Österreichisches Filmmuseum in Vienna was supported by Michael Loebenstein, Dominik Tschütscher, and Alex Horwath. They provided me research copies of almost all of Vertov’s and Shub’s silent films and were thoughtful colleagues and friends. I would like to thank two readers, Chuck Kleinhans and Scott Curtis, each of whom—though very differently—provided a model of academic scholarship and teaching that shapes my own today. I would also like to thank Andrew Wachtel, a wonderful mentor and friend. Mimi White always seemed to know what I needed, personally and intellectually, well before I did. She kept me focused while gently directing me to more fruitful areas of inquiry. My father-in-law, Edward Brynn, deserves special recognition. Professor Brynn read every word of this book, going well beyond his apparent copyediting duties to offer substantive suggestions about the structure and focus of the argument. I want to thank both him and his wife, Jane, for their unconditional support throughout this process. A number of people at Indiana University Press deserve thanks. Janet Rabinowitch, Jane Kupersmith, Raina Polivka, and Julie Bush have offered countless insights and demonstrated exceptional professionalism. I’m happy to be a part of what they are building. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have the colleagues I do in CMCL at Indiana University. Joan Hawkins, Barb Klinger, Greg Waller, Alex Doty, Ted Striphas, Stephanie DeBoer, Michael Kaplan, and my occasional collaborator Ilana Gershon have, in various ways, enriched this book. I especially thank Ilana, who read a large chunk of this work, and Michael, who, in between Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo exegeses, offered a number of critical directions I adopted. Michael Booth has been a wonderful friend and supporter during the writing of this book. His insights are sprinkled throughout. And Mark Kligerman provided a number of helpful comments early in the process. Sara Friedman, Gardner Bovingdon, Sarah Knott, and Konstantin Dierks have all been amazing friends in Bloomington. In addition to their warm hospitality, I would like to thank Kon for his editorial work and Gardner, who not only read it all but put up with me throughout the process (no small task, I can assure). Dan Morgan has read multiple versions of every chapter of this book, having been involved from the outset. Our conversations on film theory and film history have been invaluable. I cannot thank him enough for his extraordinary generosity. I only wish I were an ace southpaw for the Red Sox and could show my thanks every five days. I want to thank my family—Gloria Caplan, Barry Malitsky, Jahna Gregory, Rodd Malitsky, and Denny Palmer. My son, Asher, made stepping away from Soviet and Cuban nonfiction film usually the best part of my day. I dedicate this book to my wife, Anne Brynn, who knows all the reasons why.
Post -Revolution Nonfiction Film
Introduction: Revolutionary Rupture and National Stability
The task of the total transformation of the world was not an end in itself—the end was ideal humanity, freedom from economic material necessity, and most important, freedom to create. Hence all avant-garde movements . . . however diverse their aesthetic sensibilities, were ultimately concerned with the identical problem: the development and implementation of a modern utopian science scheme that would affect the leap from the present to the future, or, in the idiom of the day, from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. But though Marx posited the fusion of art and life inThe German Ideology, neither Marx and Engels nor the Bolsheviks articulated a coherent aesthetic theory. As a result, providing blueprints of the ideal future, particularly models of a new man, became the task of the artistic avant-garde.
Whenever a new social group, especially a new class, first appeared in history, it was seized for a time with a kind of fever to build. People would joyously start to remake the face of the earth in the image and likeness of their own conceptions of social justice, and their literature acquired an earthy, insistently urgent, and efficacious quality . . . a revolutionary form was invented that most hit the mark.
It seems to me important that we advance by way of the very difficult combination of continuity and rupture. If you go too far ahead, nobody will follow you, you’re not efficient because you don’t communicate. If you limit yourself to respecting the level of the masses at a given moment, they may pass you by and leave you becalmed and paralyzed. If you go too far ahead in your search, you can become dangerously isolated from your audience—just as one runs a risk by choosing the well-traveled road and not achieving a personal advance. I think the will ought to be always to do violence to the public.
Periods immediately following revolutions are often charged with artistic energy and creative experimentation. Industrial leaders, scholars, critics, and artists debate the value and role of artistic practice in a new society. They negotiate their own aesthetic theories with the politics of the victorious party and seek access to scant resources. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the goals of political revolutionaries and revolutionary artists were complementary and integrated in ways never before experienced in each country. Each group supported political and aesthetic experimentation and believed that such practices could and would lead to a society of new men and women in the immediate future. Leon Trotsky envisioned an individual who “will become immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. . . . The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a 1 Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.” And Che Guevara anticipated an individual who was “more complete, with much more inner wealth and much more responsibility,” one 2 with the potential to reach “total consciousness as a social being.” The duty of providing models of the new man, as Irina Gutkin describes inCultural Origins of the Socialist Realist Aesthetic, fell in part to 3 the artistic avant-garde. Even nonfiction film, associated with the communication of events and experiences of the everyday world, was drawn into the culture of experimentation. Soviet and Cuban leaders, in fact, privileged nonfiction film as a form uniquely capable of aiding the effort to shape the new man and to unify, edify, and modernize the citizenry as a whole. In the clarity of its language and in its visual and narrative pleasures, they saw considerable agitational, propagandistic, and economic potential. On-location shooting, use of found footage material, and limited need for elaborate sets and costumes: all this made documentaries and newsreels economically efficient in comparison to fiction films. And nonfiction film was thought to be consistent with Marxist-Leninist principles in that it grounded its artistic production in
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