KinoKultura: Issue 44 (2014)

Archival Findings in Belye Stolby 2014

By Birgit Beumers (Aberystwyth U)

The 18th edition of the festival of archival films in Belye Stolby was held from 24 February until 1 March 2014, a month later than usual. It was the first festival without Vladimir Dmitriev, the founder and mastermind of the event—even if last year he, already in bad health, did the steering from his home. In his honor, the festival opened with a screening of a film about his life made by documentary filmmaker Ivan Sergeevich Tverdovskii. Moreover, within months after Dmitriev’s passing, his deputy of research and international relations, Valerii Bosenko, died. Then, a few weeks later, the researcher Evgenii Barykin passed away, depleting the ranks of film historians at Gosfilmofond substantially. Needless to say, they can never be replaced and their expertise is hugely missed. In their memory, the festival screened their favorite films. However, Gosfilmofond’s newly appointed head of research, Petr Bagrov, along with the traditional organizing committee including Tamara Sergeeva, Natalia Iakovleva and Oleg Bochkov, pulled together a worthy and interesting program that stood in no way behind previous editions.

kameshkiThe festival program comprised the traditional sections, including the always much awaited rubric “Archival Findings,” which included this year Der Liebe Pilgerfahrt (Pilgrimage of Love, 1922), a film that Iakov Protazanov made at UFA in Berlin, which was shown from the print preserved at George Eastman House, with the intertitles meticulously restored from the archival script. Two orphaned children, Egil and Karin, leave their home town where they are exploited and forced to work. They are both adopted by different families. Inspired by his adoptive father, a pharmacist, Egil becomes a doctor. One day, Karin is admitted to his hospital: she is critically ill. Karin has endured a different fate after the man she was about to marry died, leaving her and his unborn child penniless. A romantic melodrama unfolds, which blames society for Karin’s hardships, but the world’s evil is set right at the end thanks to a lesson of acceptance and forgiveness for Egil. The film is, no doubt, an important piece in Protazanov’s career, whilst cinematographically quite conventional. In the same section a fragment of 8 minutes was screened from Come Tomorrow (Prikhodite zavtra), a comedy by Aleksandr Cherkasov. This film dealt with the bureaucrat Zavaliukin (Boris Snegirev), who makes advances to his secretary Zaitseva (Nina Vasil’eva); she cleverly sets him several tasks: to go to sauna, have a hair cut and be in time for the Registry Office – which of course he cannot complete. There are several bows here in Snegirev’s performance to Chaplinesque slapstick. Another discovery is Ol’ga Preobrazhenskaia’s Anya (1927) about a girl who loses her family in the Civil War and runs away with a Revolutionary sailor and a Persian boy—a film that thematically and visually fits entirely within the historic-Revolutionary films of the era. The same is true for a freshly discovered film from the “Film Train,” where Aleksandr Medvedkin’s The Empty Place (Pustoe mesto, 1932). The film takes on the lack of specialist training for the Donbass miners. Another film-slogan against negligence at the workplace is Aleksandr Levshin The Thistle (Chertopolokh, 1933), exposing the tractor driver Dolinin, who sabotages the tractor of a woman in his brigade who works better, eventually causing an accident. In the end Dolinin is arrested and justice is done. Mikhail Kapchinskii’s White Death (Belaia smert’, 1933-35) is one of the first sound films of the Odessa Studio, showing how children assisted the transportation of arms for the Red Army. A 37-minute fragment of Abram Room’s uncompleted film Conscience of Peace (Sovest’ mira, 1951) reveals a story-line that ties in perfectly with the theme of the Cold War: the Norwegian physicist Rikard Berg meets his Soviet counterpart Irina Prokhorova, having to make a decision about the future of his invention. The film thus connects the theme of science and ideology.

crusoeTwo popular science films were shown: To the Taiga for the Meteorite (V taigu za meteoritom, 1929) by Nikolai Vishniak, which used composite shots created by Aleksandr Ptushko for this extraordinary report on the search for meteorite in the Tungus steppe, based on the expedition by Leonid Kulik. This film was found in RGAKFD and restored for the screening. Pavel Klushantsev’s Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights (Severnoe siianie, aka Poliarnoe siianie, 1948) is a film that was considered lost, yet it had just been waiting for identification at RGAKFD. This is a 10-minute version prepared for German distribution, with German inter-titles and a German film title in the catalogue. Nikolai Izvolov and Sergei Kapterev presented the trailer for their documentary about the search for the sound version of Mikhail Tsekhanovskii’s The Post (1929), entitled Search for the Lost Post.

The section “In Memoriam” presented fragments from documentaries about and interviews with the people to be remembered. Thus Aleksei Balabanov talks at length about his favorite film The Pointsman (De wisselwachter, 1986) by Jos Stelling, in an interview conducted by Natalia Iakovleva (deservedly awarded a prize for her work). Similarly, the festival remembered Aleksei German with a fragment from an interview, and Petr Todorovskii with his feature debut Never [Nikogda, 1962], as well as cameraman Vadim Iusov through several fragments highlighting his work. The centenary to the birth of Tat’iana Okunevskaia was marked by a screening of Leonid Lukov’s It Happened in the Donbass (Eto bylo v Donbasse, 1945), and a similar homage was paid to Petr Aleinikov, Norman MacLaren, Boris Dezhkin, Alec Guinness, with a selection of films or fragments being shown. The centenary to the start of WWI was also marked by several film screenings, as was the year 1944, the bicentenary of Lermontov’s birth, and the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare.

zolushkaA new rubric in the program consisted of screen tests for films, presenting tests from Cinderella (Zolushka, 1947) by Nadezhda Kosheverova and Mikhail Shapiro. In the film, Ianina Zheimo played the main part of Zolushka, alongside Erast Garin (King) and Faina Ranevskaia (Stepmother). In the screen tests we see the ballerina Maria Mazun trying for the part of Zolushka, Konstantin Adashevskii and Iurii Tolubeev for the part of the King, and Nadezhda Nurm from Comedy Theatre for the role of the Stepmother. The casting tests of the opera singer Sofiya Golemba have not been preserved. These tests shed an interesting light on the directors’ final choices in terms of their aims and needs for the individual performances.

ivashkoIn terms of technology, the festival showed the restored 3D-version of Aleksandr Andrievskii’s Robinson Crusoe (1947), as well as Sergei Mikaelian’s Motley Pebbles (Raznotsvetnye kameshki, 1960) in which a pensioner, Grigorii Afanasevich, tries to warn his protégé Nina against the advances of various suitors and wishes to help her to study—but she falls into trap of a man. The restoration of color films also continued into this year, now making it possible to see Mstislav Pashchenko’s Dzhiabzha (Lenfilm, 1938), Vladimir Suteev’s Father Frost and the Grey Wolf (Ded moroz i seryi volk, 1938, Soiuzmultfilm); and Ivashko and Baba Yaga (Ivashko i Baba Yaga, 1938, Soiuzmultfilm) by the Brumberg Sisters. Moreover, Nikolai Maiorov completed the restoration and reconstruction of the first Duma session on 27 April 1906—a feat of meticulous restoration work and a true service to the preservation of the visual memory of the past.

Birgit Beumers
Aberystwyth University, Wales

Evgenii Margolit, for hiscontribution to film studies
Elena Stishova, for her contribution to film journalism
Television program "Margolit's Collection" (channel Kultura)
Klara Isaeva: Special Prize of GFF for her devotion to her profession and her long collaboration with GFF
Natalia Iakovleva: Special Prize of the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars for her talented films on the history of cinema

Birgit Beumers © 2014

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Updated: 18 Apr 14