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The Soviet Influence (BFI) in September

The BFI have announced the UK Dual Format Edition release of The Soviet Influence: From Turksib to Night Mail on 19th September 2011. This is the first release in a new BFI strand that looks to examine the impact Soviet propaganda films had on British filmmakers as far back as the 1930s. More details on the strand and this particular release below…

In the early 1930s, a small number of Soviet propaganda films were shown in Britain that excited filmmakers such as John Grierson, Paul Rotha and Basil Wright – luminaries of the British documentary film movement – who were then developing their ideas of film as an art form.

The Soviet Influence, a new BFI Dual Format Edition (DVD and Blu-ray) strand, explores the impact that these films had on British directors by presenting key Soviet works, along with the British films which they inspired, in specially curated editions.

The first release in this occasional series, entitled From Turksib to Night Mail, explores the profound effect that the classic, yet little-seen silent Soviet documentary Turksib (Viktor Turin, 1929) had on British documentary films, including the celebrated Night Mail.

Turksib is a bold and exhilarating film which brilliantly illustrates the problems faced by regional farmers and trades people, and highlights the need for the Turkestan-Siberian railway. Dazzling, arresting, and yet curiously overlooked, this fine example of Soviet montage cinema was presented to British audiences in 1930 in a version prepared by documentary pioneer John Grierson.

That same version is included here, newly remastered to High Definition and with a newly commissioned score by Guy Bartell from celebrated electronic outfit Bronnt Industries Kapital. It is accompanied by a collection of archival British documentary shorts, all of which were made in the wake of Turksib by filmmakers whose debt to the film is very much in evidence. The British films are:

The Workers’ Topical News No 1 (1930): the newsreel shown at Turksib’s British premiere
Australian Wine (Paul Rotha, 1931): charming and lively promotional film employing Soviet-style montage techniques
The Country Comes to Town (Basil Wright, 1931): a celebration of the importance of the British countryside
Shadow on the Mountains (Arthur Elton, 1932): expressive titles and cinematography are deployed in this lyrical film about farming
The Face of Britain (Paul Rotha, 1935): a passionate and ambitious appeal for socialist planning
Night Mail (Harry Watt, Basil Wright, 1936): this seminal film applies the aesthetic lessons of Soviet cinema to a very British tale

Features include:

  • Region 0
  • Disc 1: BD50 / 1080p / 24fps / PCM mono audio (48k/24bit)
  • Disc 2: DVD9 / PAL / Dolby Digital (320kbps)
  • Presented in High Definition & Standard Definition with new HD transfer of Turksib
  • Newly commissioned score for Turksib by Guy Bartell (Bronnt Industries Kapital)
  • New musical scores for The Workers’ Topical News No 1, Australian Wine and Shadow on the Mountains by Neil Thomas
  • Extensive, 36-page illustrated booklet which draws on the writings of John Grierson, Basil Wright, Paul Rotha and others to chart the Soviet influence in the development of British documentary filmmaking

RRP is £19.99.


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