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Department Head Alexander Semyonov
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Seminar "The boundaries of history" Oksana Sarkisova "Soviet film collection: nationalities on the screen"

On September 18, the guest of the regular seminar "The boundaries of history" was Oksana Sarkisova with the presentation "Soviet film collection: nationalities on the screen". Dr. Oksana Sarkisova is Research Fellow at Blinken OSA Archive at Central European University, Director of Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Budapest (www.verzio.org), and co-founder of Visual Studies Platform at CEU (vsp.ceu.edu). Her fields of research are cultural history, memory and representation, film history, amateur photography, and visual studies.

The given presentation briefly described main statements of the recently published book “Screening Soviet Nationalities: Kulturfilms from the Far North to Central Asia” (2017). This book is devoted to the issue of Kulturfilms – a term which describes those films that are nowadays called documentary, popular science and ethnographic films.

Author mainly works with so-called “expedition films”, dedicated to national groups and territories. While overviewing the book chapters she described filmmaker’s ideas and projects to create a cinematic map of Soviet Union, which could portray all the diversity of nations in the newly created state. Though none of these plans was ever fully realized, a great number of such kulturfilms was produced from 1925 to 1940. These films served as experimental grounds for developing an ideal way of representing Soviet nationalities and multinational Soviet identity.

During the seminar audience had a chance to watch and discuss film episodes of such filmmakers as Dziga Vertov (“A Sixth Part of the World”, 1926), Vladimir Erofeev ("The roof of the world", 1928), Vladimir Shneiderov (“Pamir”, 1929), Mikhail Slutskii (“Day of the New World”, 1940). After the presentation participants discussed such topics as specificity of film production in 1920-ies in the Soviet Union, discussions that existed upon the ways of proper filming of the “East”, hygienic discourses and the “civilizer’s” representation in kulturfilms. 

Report by: Alexander Turbin