Between 1922 and 1925, a total of 23 issues of Dziga Vertov’s newsreel series Kino-Pravda (Kino-Truth) appeared (albeit irregularly and in very few copies). Vertov’s goal was to create a kind of “screen newspaper”; the title is a tribute to the newspaper Pravda founded by Lenin. Just like the Kinonedelja newsreel series (1918-19), the Kino-Pravda issues offer a fascinating insight into the early Soviet Union and demonstrate the rapid development of Vertov’s film language.
The 22 surviving issues (No. 12 is lost) have been digitized and subtitled in German and English by the Austrian Film Museum in 2017/18.
About Kino-Pravda: An Introduction by Yuri Tsivian
Of all the rarely seen Vertov films, Kino-Pravda (1922-25) is the rarest of all. Everyone (starting with Vertov himself) mentions Kino-Pravda as the playground for Vertov’s boldest experiments in film form, but how many of us have actually seen any of its 23 issues – apart from special issue 21, devoted to Lenin’s death? To show the whole 3-year run of the Kino-Pravda newsreel (all but one survive, though some in fragments) was – I am sure – one of the Giornate’s history-changing decisions. I doubt if it had ever been done before – or could have be done, without the involvement of RGAKFD and the Österreichisches Filmmuseum, which hold two of the world’s major collections of Vertov’s films. It’s quite a marathon, it is true, but the reward for running is given not at the finish line, but in the process: to see Kino-Pravda issue-by-issue is like watching a time-lapse movie showing the growth of Soviet avant-garde cinema (born in 1922, not in 1924 as we are normally told).
Like many a Left-wing artist of the 1920s, Vertov thought that revolutions in art are somehow linked with revolutions in politics. His Kino-Pravda was about both. In Russian, pravda means “truth”, but the Pravda part of the film’s title alludes not to pravda the truth but to Pravda the paper – the Communist Party’s principal daily newspaper (illegal before, official after 1917). Vertov was never a Party member, but one could hardly find a more stalwart partisan of the Party than he. It may sound strange to hear a full champion of the party in power call himself a revolutionary – but then the Soviet Twenties was a strange time. The October Revolution did not end in October, Party leaders kept saying, true revolutions only begin with the takeover of power. All this sounds like doubletalk, and doubletalk it may have been, but if you believed it you felt doubly empowered: you could be a political orthodox while remaining politically – and artistically – Left.