‘Of all the arts the most important for us is the cinema.’
Spark, the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee’s festival of revolutionary film, takes place at two of London’s most renowned independent cinemas: the Phoenix and the Rio. The festival takes its name from the Russian revolutionary newspaper Iskra (Spark). It features classics of early Soviet cinema by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov and Esfir Shub. Warren Beatty’s Reds will also be shown as a unique and daring Hollywood film about the Revolution, released at the height of the Cold War.
107 Kingsland High St, London E8 2PB; https://www.riocinema.org.uk/; 020 7241 9410
52 High Rd, East Finchley, London N2 9PJ; https://phoenixcinema.co.uk; 020 8444 6789
IntroductionPlease note that ‘Strike’ will be introduced by Mike Wayne, professor in Film and Media at Brunel University.
October (1928, Sergei Eisenstein, 104 mins) 1.15pm, 22 October, Phoenix Cinema Eisenstein’s epic was commissioned for the jubilee of the October Revolution. The film dramatises the historical sequence of 1917, from the February Revolution that toppled the Tsar to the October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Many of the dramatic scenes re-enacted by Eisenstein, such as the storming of the Winter Palace, have become iconic images of the Revolution. Reflecting Eisenstein’s Marxist principles, the film focuses primarily on ordinary people, his cast including many who had participated in the events of October 1917.
The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927, Esfir Shub, 66 mins), 2pm, 29 October,
Shub’s documentary, commissioned as a visual document of the October Revolution ten years on, was compiled from footage recovered during exhaustive archival research. Her film
charts the course of the Revolution from the pre- war years through the carnage of the trenches to the fall of the Tsar and the climactic events of October 1917. Exemplifying Shub’s influential compilation and editing techniques, her study is a vivid record of Russian politics and society before 1917, as well as the year that would see the old order swept away forever.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 changed the course of human history. From the Tsar’s fall in February to the overthrow of the provisional government in October, ordinary Russians took centre stage in one of the great political dramas of the modern world. To mark these momentous events 100 years on , the Russian Revolution Centenary Committee is organising a one-day conference in London. We will be welcoming speakers from across Britain and around the world to discuss Russian revolutionary history, politics and culture and relevance today.
Please note: Richard Leonard MSP is no longer able to attend due to campaigning commitments. We are pleased however to welcome an additional speaker, John Pampallis, from the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa who’ll be speaking in the session on The Russian Revolution and the Third World.
Please also note that the time of the Russian Revolution and the Third World session has changed to 11.30 and the October and Soviet Cinema session is now at 15.30.
Man With a Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov, 68 mins) 1pm, 5 November, Phoenix Cinema
The manifesto at the start of Vertov’s most famous documentary describes it as ‘an experiment in the cinematic communication of visible events’. Vertov, his brother Mikhail Kaufman and wife Elizaveta Svilova, known collectively as the kinoks (‘cine-eyes’), rejected the narrative conventions of fictional cinema. In this visual study of everyday life in a Soviet city, the cameraman Kaufman records what is happening around him, and also appears on screen as a protagonist.
Svilova is likewise seen at work editing the film. Filmed in Moscow, Kiev and Odessa, Vertov’s film presents the Soviet Union of the 1920s as a modern, industrious and creative society with everyday life transformed by technical innovation.
Strike (1925, Sergei Eisenstein, 82 mins) 2pm, 12 November,
Eisenstein’s first full- length feature film portrays a strike in Tsarist Russia. In the harsh and secretive pre- revolutionary world, Bolsheviks agitate among the workers whilst police spies infiltrate their ranks as agents provocateurs. The strike is triggered by the suicide of a factory worker, falsely accused of theft by the manager. In the film, actors from the Proletkult Theatre perform alongside real- life Moscow factory workers in the crowd scenes. A milestone in cinema, Strike put Eisenstein’s pioneering montage theory into practice for the first time.
Organised jointly with the London Socialist Film Co-op