British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Soviet Influence, The: From Turksib to Nightmail

Synopsis
In the early 1930s, a small number of Soviet propaganda films were shown in Britain that excited filmmakers such as John Grierson, Paul Rotha and Basil Wright - luminaries of the British documentary film movement - who were then developing their ideas of film as an art form. THE SOVIET INFLUENCE explores the impact that these films had on British directors by presenting key Soviet works, along with the British films which they inspired. The first release in this occasional series explores the profound effect that the classic, yet little-seen silent Soviet documentary TURKSIB (Viktor Turin, 1929) had on British documentary films, including the celebrated NIGHT MAIL.

TURKSIB brilliantly illustrates the problems faced by regional farmers and trades people, and highlights the need for the Turkestan-Siberian railway. This fine example of Soviet montage cinema was presented to British audiences in 1930 in a version prepared by documentary pioneer John Grierson.
That same version is included here, newly remastered to High Definition and with a newly commissioned score by Guy Bartell from celebrated electronic outfit Bronnt Industries Kapital. It is accompanied by a collection of archival British documentary shorts, all of which were made in the wake of TURKSIB by filmmakers whose debt to the film is very much in evidence. The British films are:

THE WORKERS’ TOPICAL NEWS NO 1 (1930): the newsreel shown at Turksib’s British premiere
AUSTRALIAN WINE (Paul Rotha, 1931): charming and lively promotional film employing Soviet-style montage techniques
THE COUNTRY COMES TO TOWN (Basil Wright, 1931): a celebration of the importance of the British countryside
SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAINS (Arthur Elton, 1932): expressive titles and cinematography are deployed in this lyrical film about farming
THE FACE OF BRITAIN (Paul Rotha, 1935): a passionate and ambitious appeal for socialist planning
NIGHT MAIL (Harry Watt, Basil Wright, 1936): this seminal film applies the aesthetic lessons of Soviet cinema to a very British tale

A 36-page booklet which draws on the writings of John Grierson, Basil Wright, Paul Rotha and others to chart the Soviet influence in the development of British documentary filmmaking is included.
Series
Soviet Influence, Series
Language
English
Country
Great Britain
Year of release
2011
Subjects
Film studies; History
Keywords
cinema - Russia; documentary films; propaganda films

Distribution Formats

Type
DVD
Format
Region 2 PAL
Price
£19.99
Availability
Sale
Duration/Size
163 minutes
Year
2011

Production Company

Name

BFI Video

Email
video.films@bfi.org.uk
Web
http://www.bfi.org.uk External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7957 8957
Fax
020 7957 8968
Address
21 Stephen Street
London
W1T 1LN

Distributor

Name

BFI Filmstore

Email
filmstore@bfi.org.uk
Web
http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/ External site opens in new window
Phone
020 7815 1350
Address
Belvedere Road
South Bank
London
SE1 8XT
Notes
The British Film Institute releases its own productions on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as a variety of film and television materials made by European, American and Japanese companies. All BFI-published titles are available through the usual retail and mail order outlets, as well as via the Filmstore website. The Filmstore shop at BFI Southbank stocks many additional titles, as well as film books, magazines, etc.
 

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