Russia has a very important film industry. Momentous political changes in Russia during the 20th century make it more meaningful to consider the Soviet film industry by regime than a strict chronological basis. We know little about the Russian film industry in the Tsarist era. Russian film making is dominated by the Soviet Union (1918-92). It was a heavily censored industry with ideology being at the center of most films until well after Stalin's death. The consequences of misteps bu film makers here were draconian. Gradually censorship declined, although was never totally absent. We know very little at this time about the film industry in modern Russia. Russian films are virtually unknown in the West. Our Russian readers have suggested a few Russian movies and we are gradually learning more about Russian films. Russian films dealing with te every-day life of average Russians are especially interesting. Hopefully as we require more information we will gain some insights into the clothes worn by Russian boys and their Young Pioneer uniforms.
Momentous political changes in Russia during the 20th century make it more meaningful to consider the Soviet film industry by regime than a strict chronological basis. We know little about the Russian film industry in the Tsarist era. Russian film making is dominated by the Soviet Union (1918-92). It was a heavily censored industry with ideology being at the center of most films. The consequences of misteps bu film makers here were draconian.
This continued until well after Stalin's death. Gradually censorship declined, although was never totally absent. We know very little at this time about the film industry in modern Russia.
We know little about the Russian film industry in the Tsarist era. The industry had begun to develop, but was not yet a major activity.
Russian film making is dominated by the Soviet Union (1918-92). It was a heavily censored industry with ideology being at the center of most films until well after Stalin's death. Gradually censorship declined, although was never totally absent. Early Soviet films and Stalinist-era films were to a large degree propaganda vehicles. Thus aristocrats and wealthy people were depicted and evil, often cruel peoples. Few nuiances were permitted here. A Russian reader writes, "In the early era ideology was the main point for the Soivet cinema. Lenin wrote, that "Of all arts the most important for us [i.e. Bolsheviks] -- it is cinema", His point was evidently that in a country with a big proportion of illiterate people, cinema can play the most important role in a propaganda. The arts flourished in the USSR of 20s. Official censorship was considered as "descendance of Tsarist regime". All artistic disciplines flourished: literature, theater, cinema, and so on. But there was another
side to the 1920s. s a result of the 1917 Revolution, many people from the working class became ministers, politics, engineers, writers, art directors, artists and so on. Most unprepared for their new responsibilities. There were some really talented people, but most of them were badly educated, almost illiterate, and had enormous
ambitions. They claimed, that they were only "right" writers and artists, because their origins were from the working class. All poets, writers etc. whose parents were not poor workers/farmers were seen with suspicion. , There were charges of "class enemies". Soviet films painted wealthy people like fat, cruel, greedy, unfair, cowards, supporters of war and so on. In fact, not only wealth - ANY symbol of the "west-styled" life, for example jazz, considered by Soviet authorities as a threat to "revolutionary ideology". Slogans like "Sevodnya on igraet dzhaz, zavtra Rodinu prodast!" ("Today he plays jazz, tomorrow he will sell his own Motherland") were very widespread. [HBC note: Note the similarity with the NAZIs who also despised jazz.] Censorship in Soviet union existed on all levels - from a writing a screenplay to a final cut. Censorship was often in hands of badly educated self-centered bureaucrats, who's main fear was "What will happen to me if "the Chief" won't like something?". So they cut from movies even absolutely innocent scenes. After the 20th Party Congress and Khrechev's denunciation of Stalin, propaganda in films began to decline, albeit slowly. Communist Party leaders understood that Stalinist-era bombastic propaganda was too primitive and thus ineffective. After Stalin's death and Khrechev's denuciation, attitudes in arts began to change.
We suspect that there that the Khrechev thaw hadened again after he was outsted (1964), but our infornation at this time is limited. The general trend was to gradually reduce the ideological content of Soviet Films. Especially by the 1970s and 80s Soviet children (and not only children) movies were totally split up from the ideology.
We know very little at this time about the film industry in modern Russia. The Soviet Union had a major movie industry. Most of the major figures were Russians and the facilities concentrated in the major cities, especially Moscow and St. Pertersburg. Thus Ruusia inherited much of the Soviet film industry.
HBC has only limited information on individual Russian films or foreign films about Russia. Few of these films are available in the West. The only Russian film most Americans could name is "Potemkyn". Fortunately our Russian readers have provided us information about Russian films featuring children. They provide a wealth of information about Soviet ideology as well as the every day live of the Russian people, including children. Information on these films thus provide valuable insights on Russia. The ideological content of Soviet-era films is interesting. And it is interesting to follow film mking and the ideological twists and turns of the Soviet era. It is also interesting to observe evcery day Russian life as portrayed in the films. This is in part because the Soviets never profuced films depicting high-society life which was quite common in early American films.
Hollywood has been a dominant force in filmmaking since the movie industry was founded. In many instances the best known and most widely seen film about a country is a Hollywood film and not a film made in a country. To an extent this is a reflection of the importance of the English language. It is also a reflection of of the quality of Hollywood productions and the inability of many countries with smaller populations and economies to match Hollywood. Russia is different. The Bolsheviks from an early point gave considerable attention to film making. Soviets films, however, were rarely shown outside the Soviet Union sand are virtuallu unknown to non-Russian audiences. Surely the most widely seen and respected film about Russia is "Dr. Zivago", a Hollywood film made in the middle of the Cold war. An interesting question is how the Russians have been depicted by Hollywood. Before World II, Hollywood rarely touched on Russia, except for some historical films about Catherline the Great. The one film we recall is "Ninotchka" (1939), a Greta Garbo comedy vehicle depicting inept Bolsheviks. As far as I know, Hollywood never touched on the horrors being perpetrating by Stalin in the 1930s. But Hollywood also did not touch on the horrors of NAZI Germany, with few exceptions, until after America entered the War (December 1941). Here the export market impeded Hollywood from addressing the NAZIs, but this was not the case of the Soviet Union where American movies were not widely shown. There were few films about Russia during the War. Hollywood focused on the theaters where American servicemen were fighting. The film we are aware of is "North Star" (1943) which ignored Soviet cooperation with the NAZIs and countries the Soviets invaded and began with peaceful Ukranian peasants having to deal with the NAZI invasion. A film about Slalingrad was started, but never finished. Most Hollowood films about Russia are historical pagents or versions of famious novels like "Anna Karena" and "War and Peace". Films depicting contemporary Russians are very rare. Several films come to mind. "Dr Zivago" (1965). It is often on a list of the best films ever made. That is surely the best known American film about Russia. It is a very sensitive depiction of Russians. Another very good film is less based on reality, but a very good film nevertheless--"Hunt for Red October" (1990). Another good example is "Gorky Park" (1983). There are not a lot of World War II films about Russia. Our World War II films are mostly about our experience. One recent film, "Enemy at the Gate"(2001) is about Stalingrad and does not paint the Russians in a negative light. "Reds" is another good film. It is based on actual true story about an American journlist in Russia during the Revolution.
A Russian reader complained to us that Hollywood films stereotype Russians. "We know a lot of American movies. And we know well your depictions of Russians. Hollywood depicts Russians as large, threatening, drunk, boorish, and brutal. For example in "Rambo II & III" (Russians - cruel bastards). In "Armageddon" (Russian - a lonely crazy drunkard on a board of rusty space station). In "Red Heat" (Russian - stupid and brainwashed man). And so on, and so on." Hollywood loves stereotypes. The Russian stereotype may be unfair and hurtful, but it is not unusual. The Russians of course are not the only > targets. There are other stereotypes for the English, French, and Italians. As well as scientists, military men, doctors, Christians, businessmen, housewives, and others.
Surely Russian media did much the same thing. In Soviet times there must have been negative depictions of the English, Germans, and Americans as well as businessmen, the middle class, aristocrats, Churchmen and other
religious people, Poles, and other targeted groups. One subject of interes is if Russian media has changed such the fall of Communism. A Russian reader tells us, "In general I do not see a lot of changes from USSR system of stereotypes. Several vanished, several were added - that's all. By the way there are no strong stereotypes about Chechens, because too much of them live almost in every city - and people can see that stereotypes are silly and have no common with real people. The more people knew each other, the less place for stereotypes."
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