Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Bukhara (SU 1927), D: Yelizabeta Svilova. Photo: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.

Бухара. SU 1927. D: Yelizaveta Svilova, ed: Yelizaveta Svilova, photog: Yakov Tolchan, prod: Sovkino. DCP (from 35 mm, 325 m), 12′; titles: RUS. Source: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.
    Grand piano: Günter Buchwald.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 3 Oct 2017.

Oksana Sarkisova (GCM 2017): "Tungusi and Bukhara were made from material originally shot for Dziga Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World (Shestaia chast mira, 1926). Vertov’s film was financed by Gostorg, the state foreign trade monopoly in the Soviet Union, which commissioned a film to promote its image and popularize its activities during the New Economic Policy (NEP) years. It also hoped to gain credibility from Vertov’s concept of capturing “life as it is” on film. The trade monopoly offered a generous budget, enough to finance ten expeditions to remote parts of the Soviet Union, and shoot approximately 26,000 metres of footage. Vertov intended to use Gostorg’s money to make a series of films that would launch a powerful new visual protocol for portraying the Soviet Union. With this aim, he engaged a large team of cameramen, including Ivan Beliakov, Samuil Benderskii, Nikolai Konstantinov, Aleksandr Lemberg, Nikolai Strukov, Yakov Tolchan, and Petr Zotov to shoot footage across the Soviet Union."

"The surplus footage that remained after the completion of A Sixth Part of the World was also used in related kulturfilms, such as Furs (Pushnina) and Flax (Len), both by Ilya Kopalin, Fishing (Rybolovstvo; possibly also known as Malorossiisk), by Mikhail Kaufman, and Gut Production (Proizvodstvo kishok), by Yelizaveta Svilova, as well as in a number of ethnographic and scenic films."

"Tungusi is a short ethnographic sketch that “zooms in” on the Evenki minority in Northeast Siberia (a region which until 1931 was referred to as “The Tungus”). The film introduces its anonymous protagonists in medium close-ups, as “types” of men, women, and children; this is followed by showing us different kinds of habitat, the construction of a tent, and cooking, hunting, and trading activities. The collective Evenki (Tungus) portrait highlights the people’s regular interaction with state traders; it includes a visit to the state co-operative and features a hunter trading furs for manufactured goods. Originally shot to emphasize the extension of the Gostorg network, the film presents the new trading “contact zone” as mutually beneficial, emphasizes regular interaction with the state traders, and foregrounds the state agency Gostorg as the agent of modernity."

"Bukhara was another film edited by Vertov’s colleague and wife Yelizaveta Svilova from surplus footage. This time she used material filmed in Uzbekistan in Central Asia by Yakov Tolchan, to construct a short scenic film which sensitively portrays this bustling ancient city, with its vivid streets, canals, mosques, cotton fields, and bazaars. In this account references to Gostorg are completely absent; the film builds on the tradition of early travelogues, combining established orientalist references with scenes of modern change."

"Both films were envisaged as part of a Soviet kino-atlas, and were released with the aim of familiarizing audiences with the ethnographic and cultural diversity of their country. While the representation of the multinational and resource-rich Soviet Union became a standard cinema trope, the concept and scale of Vertov’s grand project was harshly criticized by the Sovkino studio management. Despite the production of a number of films from the Gostorg-financed footage, Sovkino accused Vertov of inefficient planning and misuse of funds, and fired him.
" Oksana Sarkisova

AA: This contribution to the Soviet kino-atlas is crammed with observations. Starting from a crowd at worship by a mosque next to a minaret it shows processes of irrigation via water flagons necessary for cotton cultivation. Camels and donkeys are the vehicles of transportation for cotton sacks. We are in the legendary land of Astrakhan sheep and Karakul sheep and visit a market for Astrakhan fur coats, skins, hides, and leather. Even the recycling of sheeps' intestines is detailed. Little lambs are for sale, as well, at the Karakul bazaar. Weavers loom, silk is dyed, horses are shoed, children are at play.

Details of daily life include steaming tea, shashlik shafts, water pipes being smoked, a scalp massage at the barber's, and white yoghurt consumed as delicacy. Elements of life here may still be like they were in antiquity.

The DCP is in low contrast and heavily duped, yet providing an intriguing and rewarding experience.

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