In 2017, what better way is there to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution than by screening the movies those momentous events inspired? For the next 10 months, the L.A. Workers Center and HollywoodProgressive.com are co-presenting a monthly series of classics by the giants of early Soviet cinema: Sergei Eisenstein, V.I. Pudovkin, Alexander Dovzhenko, Dziga Vertov and Esther Shub. The monthly film series called “Ten Films That Shook the World” screens features and documentaries about Russia’s Revolutions in 1905 and in February and October 1917, culminates November 7th on the exact 100th anniversary of the storming of the Winter Palace.
The Soviet cinema of the 1920s and early 1930s arguably produced the greatest political films ever made. Indeed, as a cinematic trend these Red Russian reels are among moviedom’s leading trends and movements, such as German Expressionism, the French New Wave, Italian Neo-Realism, Hollywood’s Golden Age, etc. The fiction and nonfiction motion pictures screened in the “Ten Films That Shook the World” series are among the finest works of art created in all human history.
These motion pictures starkly depict the barbaric cruelty and repression of the czarist state and of Kerensky’s provisional government. But more importantly, infused with the enthusiasm of the success of the world’s first workers’ state, early Soviet cinema has a triumphant vision, showing that when ordinary people unite to do extraordinary things, they become an invincible force. Instead of John Wayne-type lone, rugged individualist protagonists in La La Land flicks, Soviet revolutionary films focus on the mass hero. Everyday workers and farmers are the lead characters, as individuals and integral parts of the collective, as fearless proletarians and peasants heroically make their own history, where the people can accomplish ANYTHING. Confronting and often overcoming great odds and adversity, humanity and solidarity are the essence of these artworks. Instead of an electoral college conceived by all-white, male slave masters and property owners to ensure elite rule, early Soviet cinema portrays participatory, popular direct democracy of the masses, by the masses and for the masses.
Early Soviet films show what can happen when the political avant-garde, in control of state resources, subsidizes and works with the artistic avant-garde to advance shared egalitarian, progressive ideas. These moving movies utilize poetic imagery, lyrical metaphors, creative editing called “montage” and more to passionately, intellectually tell the people’s story. In doing so, filmmakers used the dialectical method to construct and communicate socialist philosophy - often in a highly dramatic way, combining education, enlightenment and entertainment. Early Soviet screen agitprop is revolutionary in both form and content, expressing the Russian Revolution’s shining ideals and aspirations: “Bread, Peace, Land”, “Workers of the world, unite!” and more
These films illustrate why Lenin said: “For us, the cinema is the most important of the arts.” “Ten Films That Shook the World” blasts off 7:00 p.m., February 24, 2017, at The L.A. Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019, with scenes from Eisenstein’s OCTOBER/TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD to honor the February Revolution, followed by Pudovkin’s 1926 MOTHER about the 1905 Revolution.
The programmer and co-presenter of “Ten Films That Shook the World” is film historian/ critic Ed Rampell, who majored in cinema at Hunter College, Manhattan and has co-authored three movie history books and is the solo author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States. Rampell co-created HollywoodProgressive.com and his ancestors are from Odessa and Kiev.
A Cinematic Centennial Celebration of the Russian Revolution:
TEN FILMS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD
The L.A. Workers Center and HollywoodProgressive.com are co-presenting a monthly film series from February through November 2017 to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the February and October, 1917 Revolutions in Russia, as well as Russia’s 1905 mass uprisings. All 10 films screened during these 10 months are Soviet cinema classics, some of the greatest political films ever made.
Program/schedule for “A Cinematic Centennial Celebration of the Russian Revolution: TEN FILMS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD”:
February 24, 2017:
The Progie Awards for 2016’s Best Progressive Film and Filmmaker will be announced.
To honor 1917’s February Revolution, the scenes in the beginning of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1927 masterpiece, OCTOBER/TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD, that depict the overthrow of the Czar, will be screened. This will be followed by:
MOTHER - Vsevolod Pudovkin’s 1926 film, inspired by Maxim Gorky’s novel about the 1905 Revolution, is about the revolutionary awakening of a middle-aged working class woman, whose son, a trade unionist, is imprisoned. Look for Pudovkin’s poetic use of a frozen river to symbolically express that the Revolution is an unstoppable natural force. (90 minutes.)
March 24, 2017:
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN - Based on a true story, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 stirring account of the mutiny by sailors who refuse to eat maggoty meat and the mass strike by workers supporting them during the 1905 Revolution is widely considered to be Soviet cinema’s greatest masterpiece. The terrifying Odessa Steps scene encapsulates czarist brutality, while Potemkin’s theme of triumphant solidarity expressed the essence of Russia’s three revolutions, symbolized by pounding waves. (75 minutes.)
April 28, 2017:
THE FALL OF THE ROMANOV DYNASTY - Editing together archival footage, Esther Shub chronicles the czarist doomed dynasty from 1913 until 1917 in this 1927 nonfiction work. Historical figures including Czar Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, Aleksandr Kerensky are shown and V.I. Lenin are shown. Using found footage Shub constructed a new film out of old newsreel clips, creating the documentary genre of the compilation film. (1 hour, 41 minutes.)
May 26, 2017:
STRIKE - Sergei Eisenstein’s powerful first full-length film depicts a 1903 strike by Russian workers. Instead of Hollywood-type individualistic movie stars, we see instead the collective mass hero. Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film is famous for its imaginative intercutting at the end expressing the cruelty of the vicious czarist regime. (82 minutes.)
June 23, 2017:
ARSENAL - Ukrainian Alexander Dovzhenko’s 1929 film takes place during the Russian Civil War, depicting the 1918 Kiev Arsenal January Uprising to support the Red Army. A decade before Superman’s birth, Dovzhenko bestows a mythic dimension on the rebels. (92 minutes.)
July 28, 2017:
STORM OVER ASIA - Vsevolod Pudovkin’s 1928 anti-imperialist parable is set in Mongolia in 1918, as indigenous people, led by Genghis Khan’s descendent, rise up against British colonizers, with a little help from Mother Nature. (2 hours, 8 minutes.)
August 25, 2017:
EARTH - Alexander Dovzhenko’s 1930 ode to the Ukraine includes rhapsodic images of peasants, sunflowers, tractors, etc., as collectivization and modernization come to the Ukrainian countryside, and farmers fight the kulaks and landowners. (69 minutes.)
Sept. 22, 2017:
Special treat: Pudovkin’s 1925 comedy short, CHESS FEVER. (28 minutes.)
MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA - Dziga Vertov’s astounding, avant-garde 1929 documentary is as visually inventive as the features made by Hollywood’s Buster Keaton or the German Expressionists. This extremely cinematic nonfiction film is full of wild special effects and optical trickery, a real feast for the eyes as it explores the then-contemporary Soviet Union. Vertov, the creator of the Kino Pravda - or “Film Truth” newsreels - asks: What is the role of the filmmaker in socialist society? (68 minutes.)
Oct. 27, 2017:
THE END OF ST. PETERSBURG - Vsevolod Pudovkin’s 1927 classic dramatizes the events leading up to the Kerensky regime’s overthrow by following a poor peasant’s journey as he rise to consciousness and takes action. The horrors of World War I are revealed with some of the best antiwar scenes ever shot and the Petrograd proletariat seizes power - turning St. Petersburg into Leningrad. (89 minutes.)
Nov. 7, 2017 - the exact 100th anniversary of the October Revolution:
OCTOBER/TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD - Sergei Eisenstein’s 1927 piece de resistance depicts the tumultuous events of 1917, as the czarist regime is toppled in February, Lenin returns from exile and the Bolsheviks overthrow Kerensky’s Provisional Government, storming the Winter Palace. (1 hour, 35 minutes.)
The programmer and co-presenter of “TEN FILMS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD” is
film historian and critic Ed Rampell, who majored in cinema at Hunter College, NY and is author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States.
Screening format: A speaker briefly introduces each film and filmmaker. After every movie the speaker will make additional, relevant remarks and then open the floor up for questions and answers. This is followed with light refreshments. These black and white, silent films, with English subtitles, and perhaps musical soundtracks, are screened under imperfect conditions, although this is an opportunity to see these films projected on a big screen or not all. Admission is free of charge, although donations and potluck contributions to the refreshments will be accepted. Nobody will be turned away due to inability to donate. All screenings start at 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Friday of each month, with the exception of the final film, on Tuesday, November 7th. All screenings are at:
The Los Angeles Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019. For information contact: email@example.com. .