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Alexander Medvedkin Reader (Hardcover)

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Filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin (1900–89), a contemporary of Sergei Eisenstein and Alexander Dovzhenko, is celebrated today for his unique form of “total” documentary cinema, which aimed to bridge the distance between film and life, and for his use of satire during a period when the Soviet authorities preferred that laughter be confined to narrowly prescribed channels. This collection of selected writings by Medvedkin is the first of its kind and reveals how his work is a crucial link in the history of documentary film.
Although he was a dedicated communist, Medvedkin’s satirical approach and social critiques ultimately led to his suppression by the Soviet regime. State institutions held back or marginalized his work, and for many years, his films were assumed to have been lost or destroyed. These texts, many assembled for this volume by Medvedkin himself, document for the first time his considerable achievements, experiments in film and theater, and attempts to develop satire as a major Soviet film genre. Through scripts, letters, autobiographical writings, and more, we see a Medvedkin supported and admired by figures like Eisenstein, Dovzhenko, and Maxim Gorky. This is a rich testimony to the talent and inventiveness of one of the Soviet era’s most revolutionary filmmakers.
This is an enormously important and long-awaited project in film studies: it is collection of selected writings by the filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin, rendered into English. There is no equivalent volume in Russian or in any other language, so this is an original work. Alexander Medvedkin (1900-89) belongs in the canon of major Soviet filmmakers. He invented a form of total” documentary cinema for workers in the early Soviet era that was aimed at bridging the distance between film and life, whereby the target audience of a film would be involved in its making, and then their viewing and discussion of it would become the basis for action to change their work situation and relations. He was also a major satirist at a time when the Soviet authorities feared the ambiguities of satire and tried to confine laughter to narrowly prescribed channels. Medvedkin’s work remains a crucial link in the history of documentary cinema, especially in its more engaged or agitational forms. He was a true-believing, card-carrying Communist, but he was also a victim of the Soviet regime. Soviet institutions prevented him from fully achieving what he hoped to accomplish as an artist because he behaved as an individualist who sought to produce artistic projects in defiance of obstacles from the authorities.

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