Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mati samepo / Their Kingdom

(Ich carstvo / Ikh tsarstvo / A Page from a Biography) [Il loro impero] (Goskinprom Gruzii, Georgian SSR, 1928) D, ED, DP: Mikhail Kalatozishvili (Kalatozov), Nutsa Gogoberidze; fragments, 35 mm, 449 m, 22 min (18 fps); from: Gosfilmofond of Russia. Russian intertitles. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian and Philip C. Carli on the grand piano, 5 Oct 2010

Sergei Kapterev in the GCM Catalogue: "The documentary Their Kingdom, co-directed in 1928 by Nutsa Gogoberidze and Mikhail Kalatozishvili (Kalatozov) for Soviet Georgia’s Cinema Trust, was considered lost until 2008, when there appeared a possibility that this important film – Georgia’s first documentary feature and Kalatozov’s directorial debut – had not disappeared irretrievably. Two reels titled A Page from a Biography, preserved by Russia’s Gosfilmofond archive, contained clues indicating they were part of the long-lost 5- reel feature.

In the course of archival research, it was conclusively established that A Page from a Biography, a compilation of fragments from newsreels produced in the pre-Soviet Democratic Republic of Georgia and from other documentary materials – interspersed with shots bearing stylistic touches later to be associated with Kalatozov, intertitled with political quotes and edited to satirical effect under the influence of Esther Shub’s work – belonged to Their Kingdom, a film whose topicality is not limited to the historical moment of its release, but retains a fascinating relevance to the issues of our own time.
Their Kingdom’s structure was based on the contrast between the inefficiency and cynicism of the Georgian bourgeoisie and the progress made by Georgia under the Soviet regime. The rediscovered reels review the relationship between Georgia’s ousted “bourgeois” government and Western powers – a relationship built, according to the film, upon the former’s willingness to exploit the latter’s interest in Georgia’s strategic position and natural resources.

A possible explanation for the preserved portion’s alternative title (which should be read as “a page from the history of a nation”) lies in the fact that the “modern” segment of Their Kingdom was condemned by the censors for its formalistic excesses; while the Soviet propagandist-educational variations on the kulturfilm genre (to which the film belonged) were actively criticized for their viewerunfriendly – and therefore counter-productive – lengths. The combination of these two factors probably led to the appearance of a more acceptable shorter version of the film. – SERGEI KAPTEREV."

Compilation quality in the fragmentary print. - This is an agitprop non-fiction film, equally satirical and propagandistic. There is a long introduction into the oil politics of Georgia. The director's touch begins to get recognizable towards the end of these fragments.

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