May 18, 2014

Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados

Colombia at Orphans 9 
by Pamela Vizner

Presenter: Juana Suárez (Proimágenes Colombia / Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano)
Screening: Outtakes from Gloria Triana’s Yuruparí (FOCINE-Audiovisuales, 1983-86)

Less than a decade after the broadcast of this important documentary series, Colombia's national daily newspaper featured the headline "Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados." The term forgotten films was a reference to the rediscovery that dozens of the original 16mm films had been left in laboratories in Miami and New York, where they had been sent for transfer to videotape. The story's lede aptly suggests the nature and value of what they recorded.
José Torres, an elder from Guapi, was one of the few people who knew the secrets of the ritual marimba of the Pacific Coast. Before he passed away, Torres narrated part of his secrets in front of the film camera, which for almost three years traveled around the country searching for manifestations of popular culture.  -- El Tiempo, March 10, 1991 <original Spanish publication here>. 
Yuruparí, or Yuruparý, is believed to be a word from the Tucano language, doesn’t have a singular meaning; “son of the fruit” or “son of the birds” are among its translations, which originated from the Legend of Yuruparý,a myth from the Amazonas and one of the oldest pieces of written literature of Colombia. The legend tells the story of Yuruparý, whose mother Seucý, a virgin, became pregnant after eating a fruit. Yuruparý becomes later the chief of the tribe, after living his whole childhood inside a magical tree, and changed the chaotic matriarchal society of the tribe for a patriarchal one, originated in the Laws of the Sun. Additionally, the Ritual of Yuruparý is an indigenous ritual of male initiation, in which young adolescents are officially welcomed to adulthood.

Yuruparý is then, in many ways, a synonym of a new beginning and rebirth. Gloria Triana, the director of the Yuruparí series couldn’t have chosen a better title. This documentary series was carried out in a Colombia that was still in search of a national identity. During the 1980s there was not an acknowledgement of the multicultural origins of the country. Thus, Yuruparí gave Colombians the chance to look at and rediscover themselves.

It is impossible to talk about the Yuruparí series without talking about its director, whose unique vision about culture and documentary style and its purpose in anthropological research would make an enormous impact nationwide. In her book Serie Yuruparí: 20 años, Ligia Echeverri describes Triana as “half scientist and half artist.”

Publicaciones de Proimagenes en Movimiento

Anthropologist, sociologist, and specialist in the production of ethnographic cinema, Gloria Triana is a pioneer in the research of audiovisual techniques and their use in scientific studies. Since she was very young she dedicated her vacations to traveling around the country, observing traditional celebrations, carnivals, dances, and music. She filmed her first documentary in 1975, Y Todos los Días Así, about the conflicts between everyday life and formal education inside low-income families, which was a turning point in the use of audiovisual materials in anthropological pedagogy. 
Triana with musician Pablo Flórez. (Foto: Vicky Ospina

Triana also organized several regional meetings about traditional music and dance, the Encuentros Nacionales de la Música y de la Danza Tradicional. Thanks to the success of this project, she was hired by the national communications company Audiovisuales, to work on a series of medium-length films to be broadcast on national television. She directed 35 of the films in the Yuruparí series, which were broadcast between 1983 and 1986, with huge success in attracting viewers. Triana used varying anthropological techniques, such as interview and participative observation, generally without a script.

Some titles in the series earned awards, such as Best Cultural Programs at the XXV International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias 1985, the Simón Bolívar National Award to the Best Cultural Work on Television in Bogotá 1986, and Best Cultural Program at the II Television Festival 1985.

The Yuruparí series comprises 64 mid-length films, 35 directed by Gloria Triana. It was originally filmed on 16mm with ¼-inch magnetic audio track. Beginning in 2013, Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano and Fundación Proimágenes led a project to digitize some of the original negatives. This followed the 2003 publication of the book Serie Yuruparí – 20 años, which includes information about the participants, the titles in the series, and full datasheets for each production.

Torres with López.. Foto: Pepe Romay

The titles chosen for digitization were Angélica la palanquera, Cantos y danzas de vida y muerte, Carnaval del Diablo, Farnofelia currambera,and Lunes de Feria, all from 1984. With the aid of cinematographer and restorationist Jorge Z. López, the original films were telecined and corrected, producing analog and digital access formats -- BetacamSP, DVCam, DVD, as well as the digital files stored on hard drives. (Read the full technical report from 2013 by Rito Alberto Torres, "Preservación por conversión del negativo original a formato digital de algunos documentales de la serie Yuruparí, (1982-1986)."

Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano is an institution with the mission to preserve and conserve Colombia's audiovisual heritage and to facilitate access to these cultural assets.

-- Pamela Vizner


• "Yuruparí: Los Filmes Olvidados."El Tiempo, March 10, 1991,

Echeverri Ángel, Ligia. Serie Yuruparí -- 20 años. Gloria Triana: Tejedora de Sueños con los Hilos de la Ciencia. Bogotá: Fondo Mixto de Promoción Cinematográfica and Proimágenes en Movimiento, 2003.

• Torres, Rito Alberto. "Preservación por conversión del negativo original a formato digital de algunos documentales de la serie Yuruparí (1982-1986)," Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano website (2013).

• Interview. "'La cultura debe integrar las regiones': Gloria Triana," El Espectador,  (Bogotá), March 28, 2012,

• APEX 2013: Bogotá website. A project of NYU MIAP's Audiovisual Preservation Exchange initiative.

• Cortometrajes Colombianos, website aggregating filmographic information about Colombian short films, particularly those known to have played at the Festival de Cine Corto de Popayán.  Datasheets for the following episodes of the Yuruparí series were posted in 2013 by jnesrc [Juan Esteban Rengifo]:
  • Bienvenido a la vieja Providencia (1984) 
  • Buscando el camino a . . . (1984) 
  • Carnaval del Diablo, I y II (1985)
  • Ay, si la guabina (1986)
  • Pilanderas, farotas y tamboras (1986)

• Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano website,

• "Clips FT Gloria Triana." Canal Telecaribe (regional television channel, Barranquilla, Colombia) video, 14th Festival Folclórico de la Algarroba (2012), in Galeras, Sucre, Colombia. Uploaded by Humberto Jose, Jan. 7, 2012. (2:48)

Bonus track
At the moment, online video from Yuruparí films is rare. But here is a short clip from Los Sabores de mi Porro (Triana and Jorge Ruiz Ardila, 1985), documenting a performance by Pablo Flórez. 

All sources used for this article were originally in Spanish. All quotes translated by the author.

May 11, 2014

Thomas Elsaesser, The Poetics of Obsolescence, at Orphans 9

Thomas Elsaesser delivered the keynote address to the 9th Orphan Film Symposium, The Future of Obsolescence. March 31, 2014, at EYE Film Institute Netherlands.

He kindly gave permission to post the audio recording of his presenaton here. 32 minutes. 

Thomas Elsaesser <> is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Media and Culture of the University of Amsterdam, and since 2013 Visiting Professor at Columbia University. He has authored, edited, and co-edited some twenty volumes on early cinema, film theory, German and European cinema, Hollywood, new media, and installation art. Among his recent books are Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses (with Malte Hagener, 2010), The Persistence of Hollywood (2012), German Cinema - Terror and Trauma: Cultural Memory since 1945 (2013), as well as Film History as Media Archaeology (2016).

In 2005 he founded UvA’s master’s program in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image. The P&P Program, now an M.A. diploma in Heritage Studies, which co-hosted Orphans 9.

Professor E's estimable career is well detailed in Wikipedia's biographical entry.


Two weeks after this talk, we invited Thomas to the NYU Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program's 10th anniversary celebration in New York. Here is his gracious email reply.

From: Thomas Elsaesser  
Date: Apr 16, 2014 

Dear Dan,

Thank you for your message, kind words and invitation. Alas: your cocktail time will see me on my way to JFK, where I board my plane back to Amsterdam (yet again).

Wish I could be there and celebrate 10 years of MIAP with you, but I feel with bringing together P&P and MIAP in the EYE was in itself a celebration of both our programs, and a confirmation of the rightness of our hunch that the time was right for such an initiative. That you -- with Orphans -- were able to give it such an internationally recognizable and recognised face is a stroke of good fortune. 

So - on to the next ten years!


Prof. Thomas Elsaesser
New York, NY 


-- 30 --

The Strategic Value of Heidi Rae Cooley’s FINDING AUGUSTA

Benjamin Turkus
Everyday Governance: The Strategic Value of Heidi Rae Cooley’s Finding Augusta

On the third morning of the 9th Orphan Film Symposium, scholar Heidi Rae Cooley and media artist Evan Meaney, both professors at the University of South Carolina, joined filmmaker Bill Morrison for a session entitled Digital Decay and Remobilization. Their appearance coincided with the release of Cooley’s new book, Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era (Dartmouth College Press, 2014) and its companion August App (


While shared affinities for archival media united the three speakers, the connective tissue most readily apparent was their refusal (whether made explicit or not) to accept the stereotypical notion of “the archive” as a static, walled-off space, filled with obsolete items of little contemporary value. Instead, through their purposeful manipulations -- of film, computer code, and mobile technologies -- Morrison, Meaney, and Cooley all display a deep commitment to the archive as a fount of creativity, as the source of a new liberating potential.

Framed by the symposium’s theme -- The Future of Obsolescence -- their work also calls to mind the journal October’s special issue on obsolescence (Spring 2002). Reading alongside Walter Benjamin’s writings on history and media, the editors envisioned how contemporary artists’ disparate archival manipulations often emerge from a communal “experience of the obsolescent . . . [one which] offers a point of view outside what some see as the totalizing ambitions of each new technological order” (3). October’s questionnaire to 21 artists inquired about “The obsolescent, the ‘outmoded,’ the nonsynchronous, discarded forms, marginal mediums.” For many of these artists, as for Morrison, Meaney, and Cooley, the obsolescent serves as a critical resource, providing tools for “accessing dimensions of memory and/or history” (6), for constructing sites of resistance to ingrained political orders.

As Cooley would likely point out, however, this resistance does not necessarily align with neoliberal rhetoric that prizes, in her words, heroic “political intervention through feats of individual will and deliberation” (101). In their return to once-overlooked, orphaned media-historical objects, Morrison, Meaney, and Cooley present us with complex infrastructures of people, artifacts, and institutions, generating and sharing knowledge in new, interconnected ways. And whether pursuing a guiding metaphor or operational mode of re-assemblage, glitch, or tracking, their work should ultimately instill in us the desire to continue searching for new modes of communication, for new forms of community. 

Like Morrison’s roving, searching efforts—to uncover and repurpose archival film footage, constructing lyrical meditations on a theme (the deterioration and decay of celluloid film; the obsolescence of media technologies; the intertwining of history, memory, and art)—Cooley’s prose is also constantly pivoting, back-and-forth, from the concrete to the abstract, building an atmosphere of call-and-response, lost-and-found. As Wendy Chun adds in her blurb for the book, Finding Augusta and the Augusta App are concerned with the “patterns and rhythms” of our current technological era. For Cooley, it is “mobility, its organization and potentiality, [that] is the defining problem of this present” (xxiii).

The lodestar for Cooley’s wide-ranging though tightly focused exploration of the social and political implications of the rampant proliferation of mobile technologies is, in a wondrously strange way, a film historical artifact that is unusual in its own right. The film, Scott Nixon’s The Augustas, is part of the University of South Carolina’s Moving Image Research Collections. Following her presentation of the film in several public screenings (including Orphans 7) the Librarian of Congress added it to the National Film Registry in 2012, recognizing it as a work “of enduring importance to American culture.” The Augustas is part of a massive collection of Nixon’s amateur film footage (“approximately 26,400 feet of 16mm and 10,000 feet of Super 8”) gifted to USC by the Augusta Museum and the Augusta chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 2000 (Cooley, 118). The Library of Congress description for The Augustas points to reasons it captured Cooley’s imagination.

Scott Nixon, [an independent insurance agent] based in Augusta, Ga., was an avid member of the Amateur Cinema League who enjoyed recording his travels on film. In this 16-minute silent film, Nixon documents some 38 streets, storefronts and cities named Augusta in such far-flung locales as Montana and Maine. Arranged with no apparent rhyme or reason, the film strings together brief snapshots of these Augustas, many of which are indicated at pencil-point on a train timetable or roadmap.

Beginning in the 1930s, and into the 1950s, Nixon documented every Augusta he encountered as he traveled the country, resulting in a compilation reel that summons and yet resists our interpretations. Despite these “slippery operations” of Nixon’s “Augustas,” this lack of a readily apparent “rhyme or reason”—throughout, “Augusta” variously signifies “a township, a plantation, a military academy, a fort, a street, and a flower”— creates an “indeterminacy of reference,” which Cooley argues is markedly familiar, calling to mind the operations of modern computing and mobile technologies (xx, xiii). For Cooley, The Augustas, despite its analog nature, demonstrates something quintessentially digital, a concern for “information retrieval and, more specifically, how the process of recording, storing, and arranging information relates to the project of finding information, persons, places, and things” (xx).

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Cooley’s peripatetic journey—from QR Codes to industrial design to Michel Foucault to ancient Rome—is something of a pixilated mirror image of Nixon’s movie; and the Augusta App, which allows iPhone users to find and document their own Augustas, seems designed to spark the cognitive bias known as frequency illusion (also referred to as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon), “in which a word, a name or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards” (Wikipedia, s.v. “List of Cognitive Biases”). But our growing recognition of the multitude of Augustas is secondary, or perhaps complementary, to our awareness of the ways in which the “deceptively banal and quotidian nature of mobile technologies” masks their operations as tools for the administration and governance of populations (xvii).

This is the political core of Cooley’s work: the realization that our contemporary habits and routine practices—the feeling that accompanies a mobile phone being mistakenly left at home, the common plea for a compatible plug or available wall outlet, “tweeting from” or “checking in” at locations such as the Eye Institute in Amsterdam—are all instances of our participation in a biopolitical order. This is what “good” governance, or management, is all about: power as it operates on and through the body. As Cooley offers: “We are governed best when practices like googling stabilize into routine, when we ourselves habitually participate in the techniques that make it possible to predict and therefore anticipate and manage our conduct—most frequently by offering us results, products, services, and destinations that seem to be what we wanted all along” (8). For Cooley, mobility, location, findability, and metadata are the keys to the administrative logics of our information management society, rather than the more hackle-raising architecture of surveillance, confession, and self-discipline (79).

We walk away from this encounter with Cooley’s work with a greater awareness of and desire to engage anew with mobile technologies. And, as Cooley reminds us, “Change worth pursuing will require not ‘new ideals’ but new types of lived relations with a changing milieu” (108). Cooley not only imparts valuable advice, but she leads by example. Her willingness to experiment should inspire in us the desire to do the same. Our goal should not only be to breathe new life into films, but also to allow them to breathe new life into us.

This work, in some sense, will never be done. We must continue to reconfigure, redeploy, and remobilize, working constantly to turn films away from the past and toward the future.

-- Benjamin Turkus is a student in NYU's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation master's degree program. 


See also

Meaney, Evan. “On Glitches: A Deconstructive Analysis of Archives and Experience.” MFA thesis, University of Iowa, 2010. Rewrite downloadable PDF at

Here's the University of Iowa Libraries InfoHawk catalog record for the Meaney thesis (with its 28 leaves and companion Region-1 DVD). OCLC number 664028198.  
On Glitches: A Deconstructive Analysis of Archives and Experience
Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript, Videorecording
Document Type: Book, Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Evan J Meaney; Leighton Pierce; University of Iowa. Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature.
Sys. No. [005234641]
Description: iv, 28 leaves ; 28 cm. + 1 videodisc (25 min. : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.)
Details: DVD NTSC, Region 1.
Responsibility: by Evan J. Meaney.
Main Thesis T2010 .M435 text + disc
Special Collections University Archives T2010 .M435 text + disc

Google Books offers a QR Code for "On Glitches" (but lists Leighton Pierce as the author of Meaney's thesis).


Bonus feature: 

Left:  Cooley's iPhone photo of Meaney in Amsterdam.   Right: Cooley's screenshot of the August App in Amsterdam.

May 9, 2014

On the Same Earth: Pictures of the West More Colorful than Red

The Soviet amateur film Na odnoi Zemle / On the Same Earth (1976) screened at the 9th Orphan Film Symposium in Amsterdam on April 1, 2014, concluding the ninety-minute program “When Workers Leave the Factory: Amateur Filmmaking in the Eastern Bloc."  Sight and Sound magazine's report by Ian Francis called it "a stand-out session" whose films "gave a wonderfully nuanced picture of life under Communism."  At that session, NYU PhD candidate Maria Vinogradova delivered remarks she entitled "Soviet Amateurs Are So Serious."  

Below, as guest blogger, she provides further commentary on this noteworthy short film, uncovered by what Sight and Sound calls her "dogged research."


Maria Vinogradova
On the Same Earth: Pictures of the West More Colorful than Red

On the Same Earth (1976) 35mm, color, sound, 10 min. 
People’s Film Studio, DK Proftekhobrazovania, Leningrad, USSR. 
Author: Vladimir Medvedev; Script: Boris Goller.

On July 4, 1976 the ship Mikhail Kalinin left the seaport of Leningrad for the shores of Canada. The ship, meant to be a cultural ambassador of the Soviet Union during the summer Olympics in Montreal, carried artists that gave performances in the Olympic village, as well as venues of various sizes in Montreal and Toronto. About 80 passengers of the Kalinin were participants of amateur dance and music ensembles. Somewhat invisible among them was a “man with a movie camera” – Vladimir Medvedev, an amateur filmmaker from people’s film studio of the House of Culture of Professional Technical Schools of Leningrad (DK Proftekhobrazovania). Two hours of the footage that he shot during this trip became a ten-minute film that has only been seen by a few people in Medvedev’s immediate circle of friends and colleagues.

On the Same Earth begins where the trip ended, back in Leningrad after a month-long journey that was life-changing for many of its participants. In the Soviet Union traveling abroad was only accessible to the elite or a handful of those lucky enough to be sent abroad within rare exchange programs, sports and arts events. In the film voyagers on the Kalinin are greeted at home as heroes, those people who went through an experience perceived as transformative. The kaleidoscope of faces and flowers, the excitement that is seen but not heard, wrapped into an aural ambiance of slow electronic music, with the sound of fog horn and the screams of seagulls creating nostalgia for something still vivid in memory, but already so remote physically. Images of travelers and greeters in the glaring summer sun are intercut with long shots of the infinite blue of the ocean. The waves, the immaculate white of the ship’s broadside and all-too-familiar synthetic sound of Oxygène by Jean Michel Jarre at once made strange, elevate the experience of the sea voyage, making a trip to another continent akin to an epic space journey by the transport that by that time had already become obsolete.

We do not learn much about Canada from this film, neither do we get any information on how the artists spent that month. Rather, the experience of a new land is a central theme, with an eclectic stream of images of the big city, its people, architecture and the neon signs. This visual feast is accompanied by a slow voice-over narration, in which the excitement of the new experience is contracted by frustration, the struggle to comprehend this experience. This frustration is mediated, if not artificially constructed. The shock of this new physical reality is less strong than the desire to grasp the fact that it, indeed, occurs thousands miles away from home, and to communicate this uncanny emotion to the viewer. No direct sound is used, except for the carefully sampled insert of the sound of church bells. Separated from their aural environment, these images get a dreamlike quality.

The invisible protagonist-narrator of the film wants to appear baffled, yet, we can see his desire to sensationalize the experience. He explains that Canada is mysterious and hard to comprehend, but the active camera eye reveals pride in possession of the technical tool, and its use to organize reality according to the author’s subjective vision. We see a variety of cinematic devices put to use – a combination of long shots and dynamic montage sequences, close-ups and contrasting camera angles. This kaleidoscope could continue indefinitely, yet, it stumbles over the intention to create a narrative structure. In its second half the film leads us into believing that it has a goal, it returns to the question asked in the opening sequence: “What was the purpose of this trip?” Indeed, why, at all, was it necessary to travel? Or rather: for a Soviet traveler, how to find an explanation that would satisfy the society in which purposeless wandering could be synonymous with bourgeois decadence? How to explain that being one of those lucky few who boarded Kalinin and went abroad, indeed, benefitted those who stayed at home? The second half of the film builds up a tension: as the local inhabitants appear to live their daily lives, the narrator sounds frustrated by the impossibility of establishing personal contact with them. They appear to be a part of the same physical reality, yet, their world is inscrutable. The resolution appears suddenly: when the Soviet amateur dance ensemble begins a performance at a city square, the barrier melts: the language of dance allows to establish communication between the two people who seem to belong to completely different universes. This dance, according to the narrator, makes them realize that they still live on the same planet Earth and there is something essential that they share despite all the differences: that is, being human. It is this warming thought that the film attempts to bring home, while finding satisfaction in its explanation for the trip’s purpose.

The uncanniness of this drama returns this visually impeccable film to its roots as an amateur film. In amateur film, camera is the eye and the brain simultaneously. Unable to achieve the seamlessness and illusionary qualities of professional cinema, amateur films are valued for their immediacy, diversity of perspectives and the promise of participation. Yet, is there a room for immediacy in a film such as On the Same Earth? Shot on 35mm and produced on a state-of-the art studio, can this film be called amateur?

In the Soviet Union the definition of amateur films went far beyond home movies. While home movies, mostly shot on 8mm film, were the most numerous, a significant number of amateur films was made by collectives, frequently based at large organizations, such as factories, universities, worker clubs or houses and "palaces of culture." Many of these collectives had paid employees, frequently professional filmmakers or skilled amateurs, that actively sought new participants and taught them various aspects of filmmaking. The amateur was then not necessarily an autodidact, but a filmmaker who earned living through a different occupation, while pursuing film as a serious hobby. The best collectives were granted an honorary status of people’s film studios, which also entitled them to additional paid staff, such as, for example, sound engineers, and better equipment, provided either by their host organization or the state.

The People’s Film Studio at DK Proftekhobrazovania that existed between the early 1960s and late 1980s was the most “professional” amateur film studio in Leningrad. The studio was attached to the house of culture that served students of technical schools who learned working-class professions, and most of its participants were between 15 and 18 years old. At DK Proftekhobrazovania its film studio occupied a status similar to its dance collective, music ensemble, choir and various hobby groups. Having declared socialist realism as its main aesthetic principle, the studio rejected the raw aesthetic of amateur film and sought to achieve the highest technical quality, always shooting its films on professional 35mm format. “Amateur” in its interpretation went back to the 1920s Proletkult concept of the worker who could and, indeed, was encouraged to be an artist at the same time.

Vladimir Medvedev was not a typical participant of the studio at DK Proftekhobrazovania. Employed as assistant cameraman at Leningrad Studio of Popular Science Film, he came to DK Proftekhobrazovania to make his own films. It is only a decade later that he received formal training as documentary filmmaker. Amateur film studio thus provided for him an experimental ground to try out his own ideas, to play a more creative role in filmmaking than what his professional status at the time allowed. Access to state-of-the-art facilities and an opportunity to collaborate with other studio participants allowed him to create films on a higher technical level than what would be available to lonely amateurs.

A few music and dance ensembles at DK Proftekhobrazovania regularly traveled abroad to give performances. For its famous studio, however, this was not the case: if a film was shown at international festivals, it was usually presented by a professional filmmaker assigned by the Union of Film Workers. One or two cameramen from the studio frequently accompanied other ensembles during their tours, in countries such as Yugoslavia, Finland, East Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Their role was functional (to record the event) rather than representative, as was the case with performing arts ensembles. It then appears logical that Medvedev, rather than any of the 15-18 year old studio participants, was sent to Canada.

Upon his return Medvedev teamed with Boris Goller, a well-known Leningrad playwright, to write the script for the film. Goller had previously cooperated on his other films. The running time of the first edition of On the Same Earth was 40 minutes. However, the director of the palace of culture strongly disapproved of the way that the West was "shown too colorful" in this film. Medvedev and Goller prepared another edition, only 10 minutes long – and this is the version that we know today. It was screened once at the palace and remained shelved since then.

This story told by Vladimir Medvedev explains what seems perplexing at the first viewing of the film: where lay the boundaries of what was appropriate for a film studio whose main stated goal was to raise the working-class youth in the spirit of socialism? How did the flickering neon lights of Montreal advertising its many attractions, from skyscrapers and Coca-Cola to independent movie theaters and peep shows, correspond with this goal? Not very well, it appears. The film presents complexity often found in amateur films: Medvedev was not a dissident, not an "independent" filmmaker completely free from dictates of institutions; nor was he a docile executioner of ideological tasks set by them. His place within the studio at DK Proftekhobrazovania can be likened to the situation described by Thomas Elsaesser in relation to the Western art world in the 1920s and 1930s, in which "the avant-garde artist found in the industrial, corporate or government client the commission that permitted him to experiment in form and technique."* Without calling Medvedev an avant-garde artist, we can describe his Montreal film as the kind of commission that provided room for experimentation, even though it was eventually rejected by the "client." What remains of this experiment almost 40 years later is a trace of citizen attitudes in the state that no longer exists, an evidence of its political, social and aesthetic history, and a portrayal of Montreal captured by a rare anonymous observer.

* Thomas Elsaesser, "Archives and Archeologies: The Place of Non-Fiction Film in Contemporary Media," in Films That Work: Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media, ed. Vinzenz Hediger and Patrick Vonderau (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009), 32.


See also
Maria Vinogradova, "Amateur Cinema in the Soviet Union and the Leningrad of Film Amateurs in the 1970s-1980s," KinoKultura 27 (2010).