Two outstanding examples of revolutionary propaganda art, filmed in different eras and related not so much on the ideological level as the artistic.
The Soviet pioneer of montage cinema, Esfir Shub filmed Today in 1929 in collaboration with German Communists. Employing editing techniques to create a “third sense”, not embedded in the images themselves, she was one of the first to anticipate the basic language of propaganda that is still used in movies, on television, and in other media.
Also known under the title Cannons or Tractors, the film juxtaposes the iconic images of the birth of communism in the USSR with no less significant images of the emergence of capitalism in New York. The clash and rivalry of these two worlds and two ideologies—the image of the Cold War—are conveyed in a pulsating avant-garde montage and eloquent slogan subtitles praising the Soviet Union and taking to task the USA. A masterpiece of the avant-garde of the 1920s and a vivid political manifesto, Today demonstrates that the art of propaganda is always a creation of fiction, manipulation and the recoding of facts. Having lost none of its relevance, the film takes us back to the time of the emergence of the phenomenon known today as post-truth.
In the 1960s, Alexander Shein founded the Sovpolikadr studio under the pretext of producing propaganda films. In fact, however, he used this studio as a base from which to created innovative pictures, working and experimenting for the first time in Soviet cinema with the split screen format. His Internationale is the deconstruction of propaganda, returning at this new stage to its avant-garde roots, becoming the formal art that was banned with the advent of socialist realism in the 1930s and produced now with almost postmodern irony.
Directed by Alexander Shein and Alexander Svetlov. USSR, 1971. 22 min.
Directed by Esfir Shub. USSR, 1929. 60 min.