Skip to main content

Remembering Russia’s Revolutions Through Early Soviet Cinema

Ed Rampell: For the next 10 months, the L.A. Workers Center and Hollywood Progressive 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.

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 Hollywood Progressive 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.

potemkin

For the next 10 months, the L.A. Workers Center and Hollywood Progressive 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 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

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

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.