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 Dziga Vertov

Born:   2 January 1896
Deceased:   12 February 1954


Dziga Vertov (real name is Denis Arkadyevich Kauffman) was a film director, screenwriter, and film critic. He is known as one of the founders of Russian and world documentary cinema. Dziga Vertov started his career in the chronicle department of the Moscow Film Committee. He took part in editing of the first Soviet newsreel Kinonedelya (1918-1919). During the Civil War he took part in organization of propagation trains, and directed documentary shootings at the frontlines (films Battle near Tsaritsyn, 1919; Agitpoyezd VTsIK, 1921; History of Civil War, 1922). Gradually he developed his theoretical concept of documentary cinema: a documentary should not merely copy usual eyesight. For this purpose there is a Film Eye, which is more perfect than a human eye. Using various shootings and various technical possibilities of a movie camera, it is possible to see life processes hidden from man’s eyes, whereas subsequent arrangement of the shot material helps to investigate reality more profoundly. 

In 1922 a group of young cinematographers (Mikhail Kaufman, Ivan Belyakov, Aleksandr Lemberg, Ilya Kopalin, Alexander Rodchenko, etc.) was formed and named "Kinoka" (derived from "film eye"). 

Dziga Vertov stated the position of "Kinoka" in a number of manifestos published in 1922-1923 in cinema magazines. Kinoka group denied traditional art forms based on fiction (such as novel, story, short story, etc.) and opposed to them essay and reportage, neglected feature films and considered newsreel to be of paramount importance. The activity of the group headed by Vertov resulted in appearance of the new genre of film journalism. The newsreel Kinopravda (Film Truth), the documentary films Kino Glaz (Film Eye) and other film chronicles of events released in the 1920s- 1930s were perceived as a generalized picture of the revolutionary era and further building of peaceful life. The film Kino Glaz won a medal and a diploma of the World Fair in Paris in 1924. After Vertov’s moving to Ukraine the Kinoka group broke up.

Vertov is the director of one of the first sound documentary films Symphony of Donbass (1930). He directed Three Songs About Lenin (1934), the film which the central Pravda newspaper called “The song of the entire country”. His film Lullaby (1937) is dedicated to the country’s twenty years’ way made after the revolution. During the Great Patriotic War Vertov shot the films Blood for Blood, Death for Death (1941), Oath of the Young and In Mountains of Ala-Tau (both of 1944), dedicated to heroic fight of the Soviet people against fascism and work in the home front. The film director also released the newsreel Daily News in 1944-1954. Vertov’s creative ideas found adherents in the world cinema as well: they were supported by Bertolt Brecht, Siegfried Kracauer, Charlie Chaplin, and others. His discoveries in documentary cinema were apprehended by domestic and world documentary film makers and laid foundation for further film pursuits.

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