Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:30pm
Esfir Shub + Hito Steyerl
155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty
Esfir Shub, 16mm, 1927, 101 mins
Introduced by Hito Steyerl
“This and my following two films filled three years with the joy of searching, finding, ‘opening’ historical film-documents—but not in film-libraries or archives, for there were no such things then. In the damp cellars of Goskino, in ‘Kino Moskva,’ in the Museum of the Revolution lay boxes of negatives and random prints, and no one knew how they had got there.” - Esfir Shub on The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty
During the silent era, Esfir Shub was one of the most prominent filmmakers working in the Soviet Union, and a key contributor to the radical innovations in film form that took place in the nation’s early years. While her name may not be as well-remembered as those of her colleagues Eisenstein and Vertov, her contributions are no less profound. If Eisenstein changed cinematic narrative, and Vertov set the future course of the documentary, Shub virtually invented the practice of found-footage filmmaking, raiding caches of forgotten newsreels to create compilation films that cunningly retell history from a post-revolutionary perspective, using dialectical montage to summon new meanings from old images.
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, her best-known film, reconstructs the events and conditions that led to the uprisings of 1917. Prior to making Fall, Shub had recut hundreds of older Russian movies and foreign titles for contemporary Soviet audiences, producing her own edits of American serials, Chaplin’s Carmen, and Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse. After viewing Battleship Potemkin, she became convinced that a work of equally epic scope could be made by repurposing newsreels shot prior to the revolution. Though finding enough domestic actualities in a useable state proved difficult, the project came together after a contact provided her with an incredible trove of material in the form of Tsar Nicholas II's private “home movies." Masterfully edited, Fall of the Romanov Dynasty uses revisionist intertitles and ironic juxtapositions to argue for the oppression of the working class under the Tsars, and the inevitability of insurrection. Shub intercuts images of the imperial family hosting garden tea parties and dancing on cruise ships with laborers toiling in fields and ditches; the Great War is shown in a spectacular sequence culled from footage shot by every nation involved. “No film tosses up a window on what caused the Bolshevik uprising quite as intimately as Shub's,” critic Michael Atkinson observed, “Eisenstein's grotesquely corpulent fat cats are here, too, but they're not lens-distorted actors, just real politicians, millionaires and generals, with names.”
At Light Industry, Shub’s film will be introduced by artist Hito Steyerl, who will present a brief lecture on the implications of Shub’s practice, entitled “The Woman at the Editing Desk.”
Tickets - $7, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.
Above image: Alexander Rodchenko, Film-maker Esfir Shub, 1924