Velikiy put (Der große Weg), 1927, Esfir Shub

Velikiy put (The Great Road)

A film by Esfir Shub; Cinematography: N. Sokolova. SU, 1927, 35mm, bw, 114 min (16 f/sec)

"It is amazing how many unexpected solutions come up when you hold film stock in your hands. Just like letters: they are born on the top of the pen," found footage pioneer Esfir Shub once succinctly described her method. Having joined the state company Goskino in 1922 as an editor, Shub at first was in charge of rendering foreign film imports picked up for Soviet distribution (including Chaplin's Carmen and Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse) "suitable" for national audiences. Shub's extensive work in editing led her to discoveries that influenced directors like Eisenstein, Vertov, and Pudovkin, but her official breakthrough came with the commission to make a film commemorating the 10th anniversary of the October revolution, effectively starting her career as a compilation filmmaker working mostly with newsreels gathered from all over the globe. Culled from documentary material, her October revolution film The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (1927) demonstrated Shub's "intention [...] not so much to provide the facts, but to evaluate them from the vantage point of the revolutionary class. This is what made my films revolutionary and agitational – although they were composed of counter revolutionary material." But her masterpiece became the follow-up The Great Road, in which she chronicled the years from 1917 to 1927 according to her compilation method, including material she had to shoot herself (of old documents, pjotographs, newspapers, etc.) because "after the Civil war Soviet newsreels concentrated on parades, meetings, arrivals, departures, delegates and the like, while there was almost no record of how we transformed the country to a new political economy." (Christoph Huber)

Piano accompaniment by Elaine Loebenstein on June 1, 2021