Retrospective to focus on socialist cinema

Recently rediscovered films produced between 1922 and 1936 by a Soviet-German studio venture will be the focus of next year’s Berlinale Retrospective.

The Red Dream Factory retrospective will showcase films from the Moscow-based Mezhrabpom-Film studio and its Berlin branch, Prometheus.

Established by Russian producer Moisei Aleinikov and German communist and “red media entrepreneur” Willi Muenzenberg in 1922, the studio combined the partners’ business ambitions with their political objectives and enthusiasm for new cinematic narratives. The unique venture produced some 600 films, many of which championed socialist values, before the German office was shut by the Nazis, who came to power in 1933.

The retro will unspool such masterpieces as Vsevolod Pudovkin’s “Storm Over Asia” from 1928, Boris Barnet’s “The Girl With the Hat” (1927) and Yakov Protazanov’s 1924 sci-fi drama about revolution on Mars, “Aelita.”

While Mezhrabpom-Film made Russian revolutionary cinema classics such as Pudovkin’s “The End of St. Petersburg” (1927), the studio also focused on films that revolved around people’s everyday lives, according to Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek.

“Artistically sophisticated films from all kinds of genres thrilled international audiences and inspired the entire European film avant-garde,” Rother said.

Also screening will be Margarita Barskaya’s 1933 drama “Torn Shoes,” about children in Germany when the Nazis came to power, and the 1935 sci-fi robot film “Lost Sensation,” by Aleksandr Andriyevsky.

Among the studio’s most admired works are the Soviet Union’s first animated films as well as its first sound pic, Nikolai Ekk’s “Road to Life” from 1931.

Among the German films are socially committed pics of the late Weimar Republic, including works by Phil Jutzi, Leo Mittler’s “Jenseits der Strasse” (Harbor Drift, 1929) and Slatan Dudow’s “Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehoert die Welt?” (Whither Germany, 1932).

Curated by Alexander Schwarz and Guenter Agde, the retrospective will present more than 40 silent and sound films. The silents will all be accompanied by live music performed by renowned artists.

The lineup includes a number of German premieres of films that are being made available by Moscow’s Gosfilmofond and the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk.

The retro is being put together in cooperation with the German Federal Archives, the Cinematheque de Toulouse, Munich Filmmuseum, the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna and the Museum of Modern Art.

The retrospective will be accompanied by discussions and events at the Deutsche Kinemathek as well as a new book about the legendary studio and the films produced there.

Closely related to the retrospective and made possible by a collaboration with pubcasters Arte and ZDF is the Berlinale’s presentation of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 masterpiece “October,” with Edmund Meisel’s original music performed by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. The film, which re-enacts the Russian Revolution of 1917, will be screened at the Friedrichstadtpalast on Feb. 10.

As part of a new partnership between the Berlinale, the Deutsche Kinemathek and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, MoMA will present a number of films from the Red Dream Factory program in New York next spring.

The Berlinale runs Feb. 9-19.

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