On December 19, National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre will present another cinema performance of the KOLO DZIGI series in MYN art space (former Tram Drivers’ Club in Kyiv). This time the renovated avant-garde masterpiece TURKSIB (aka THE STEEL WAY, Vostokkino, 1929) by Ukrainian director Victor Turin will be shown with live musical accompaniment from Bronnt Industries Kapital (UK). This documentary on the construction of the Turkestan-Siberian Railway is considered the most striking example of Soviet non-feature avant-garde along with Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov. Produced by VUFKU (All-Ukrainian Photo-Cinema Directorate) at the newly reformed facilities of the Yalta Film Studios, the film was released in USSR on October 29, 1929.
TURKSIB is interesting not only due to innovative editing and camera work, but also for its narrative, subordinate to the film’s rhythm. Among the authors of the script – or rather its different versions – were such well-known film theorists as Victor Shklovskii, Alexander Macheret, Yefim Aron and Turin himself, who, obviously, was the author of the final version of the script.
Vast Central Asian deserts, cotton plantations, and the medieval life of local people – everything in the film is shown with genuine lyricism and refinement. The railroad, connecting Asia with distant Siberia, becomes the mainline of the meeting of civilizations, through which technological progress inexorably invades the peaceful and meditative Kazakh world. Little-known in the USSR and modern Ukraine, TURKSIB had huge impact on British documentary cinema and became a cult in the UK. In 2011, it was restored by the British Film Institute based on the 1930 version edited by the experimental documentary director John Grierson. The British version, characterized by more logical and refined editing, is over 10 minutes longer than the original one – apparently, the film was subject to censorship cuts in the USSR.
The music film performance will be held as part of the KOLO DZIGI series. Initiated by Dovzhenko Centre, the format of KOLO DZIGI includes a premiere of restored Ukrainian silent film with live accompaniment + concert of contemporary musicians, every time in a new "non-cinematic" location. This time the space for performance was chosen especially carefully, since it had to emphasize the transport subject. TURKSIB will be screened in MYN art space located in the former Tram Drivers’ Club on 5, Dehtyarivska street in Kyiv. It was built in 1902 for the House of Sobriety and turned into a Tram Drivers’ House as early as the 1920s. The club remained in the lush merchant building with a spacious auditorium on the upper floor until the early 2000s.
Bronnt Industries Kapital is an indie musical project from Bristol, England created by producer and multi-instrumentalist Guy Bartell. It has released three limited edition studio albums, Virtute et Industria, Häxan and Hard for Justice, on independent British and German labels. The album Häxan (2007) is a soundtrack to the eponymous cult Swedish silent film. Bartell emphasizes his admiration for Italian criminal films, low-budget thrillers and documentaries that also influenced his music. The first presentation of the band’s interpretation of TURKSIB for Ukrainian viewers was in June this year at the MUTE NIGHTS Festival (Odessa).
The director of TURKSIB Victor Turin was almost eliminated from the history of Soviet cinema; his name wasn’t mentioned apart from rare references to TURKSIB. At the same time, Turin had an experience of work in Hollywood and was one of the pioneers of Ukrainian feature cinema, as well as the author of several outstanding films. In this October one of them, Provocateur (His career, 1927) featuring Ukrainian actress Anna Sten, who soon became a Hollywood star, was shown by the Dovzhenko Centre in Pordenone at the world’s most prestigious silent film festival. Provocateur was remastered by the National Dovzhenko Film Studios in 2011. Currently, Dovzhenko Centre is completing a comprehensive digital restoration of Victor Turin’s first feature film Fight of the Giants (The Car of Two Worlds, 1926) and the Soviet version (director’s cut) of TURKSIB.