The Soviet Film Industry

By Paul Babitsky; John Rimberg | Go to book overview

II. The Soviet Studio *

1.

Every work of art is evaluated by the Communist Party leaders first and foremost in terms of its ideological impact. Ever since the Revolution the motion picture, singled out by Lenin as "the most important of all the arts for us,''1 has been the object of vigilant supervision by the Kremlin.

During the Civil War, activities in the motion-picture industry came to a virtual standstill. Only a few shattered studios, some crude equipment and a small number of technicians remained. Production of films was further limited by a shortage of photographic chemicals and raw film. The few short films made in those years, called agitki, were crude propaganda pictures intended primarily for showing to Red Army troops as visual aids to political talks and propaganda leaflets. Used for recruiting in rural areas where motion pictures had never been seen before, agitki often had a dramatic success in that they influenced many peasants to join the Red Army. Because of their very novelty, agitprop (agitation-propaganda) films sometimes fulfilled Communist expectations. As time went on, the film studios began to produce some newsreels and documentary films. Not requiring actors, scenery or stages, their production was comparatively simple and became fairly widespread. They usually depicted battles, speeches by political figures or mass demonstrations. As a rule the quality was low because of defects in the raw film and the inexperience of studio employees in chemical laboratory processes and editorial cutting techniques. Newsreels were made in few copies, sometimes only one. As for dramatic films (called "art" films in the Soviet Union), their production fell to zero.

____________________
*
Section II is based largely on Mr. Babitsky's personal experience in Soviet motion-picture studios from the mid-twenties until World War II.

-66-

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