Eight Free Films by Dziga Vertov, Creator of Soviet Avant-Garde Documentaries

Has any film­mak­er, of any era, had more influ­ence on doc­u­men­taries than Dzi­ga Ver­tov? We know the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Sovi­et cin­e­ma the­o­rist and direc­tor of avant-garde non-fic­tion films has a place high in the doc­u­men­tary pan­theon by virtue of his 1929 Man with a Movie Cam­era alone.

We’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured that motion pic­ture’s rise to Sight and Sound’s des­ig­na­tion of the eighth great­est of all time, and if you did­n’t watch it free online then, you can do so above now. Just after that, we fea­tured his unset­tling Sovi­et Toys, the first ani­mat­ed film ever made in that then-nation. But giv­en that the age of Ver­tov’s work — not that time has dimin­ished its aes­thet­ic rel­e­vance or excite­ment — has brought it into the pub­lic domain, why stop there?

Today we offer a roundup of all the Dzi­ga Ver­tov movies cur­rent­ly view­able free online, a col­lec­tion that allows you to watch and judge for your­self whether he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors suc­ceed­ed in mak­ing a dent in what he called “the film dra­ma, the Opi­um of the peo­ple.” Despite the thor­ough­ly low-tech nature of these pic­tures, even by doc­u­men­tary stan­dards, you may find your­self moved after hav­ing watched them — not nec­es­sar­i­ly by the Sovi­et caus­es he some­times extolled, but by his cin­e­mat­ic ral­ly­ing cry: “Down with bour­geois fairy-tale sce­nar­ios. Long live life as it is!”

  • Kino Eye (1924) Ver­tov’s first doc­u­men­tary not made from found footage jour­neys, accord­ing to a con­tem­po­rary news­pa­per, “from the Pio­neer camp, through the peas­ant court­yards, through the fields, through the mar­kets and slums of the town, with an ambu­lance car to a dying man, from there to work­ers’ sports grounds, and so on and so forth, peer­ing into all the lit­tle cor­ners of social life.”
  • Sovi­et Toys (1924) A “car­toon” that, in the words of our own Jonathan Crow, “dis­plays [Ver­tov’s] knack for mak­ing strik­ing, pun­gent images,” “yet those who don’t have an inti­mate knowl­edge of Sovi­et pol­i­cy of the 1920s might find the movie — which is laden with Marx­ist alle­gories — real­ly odd.”
  • Kino-Prav­da #21 (1925) Also known as Lenin Kino-Prav­da, “a spe­cial, longer-than-usu­al issue of [news­reel] Kino-Prav­da,” as the Har­vard Film Archive describes it, “in which Ver­tov jumps with bold­ness and ease between news­reel and drawn ani­ma­tion to illus­trate Sovi­et Rus­si­a’s way up under Lenin’s lead­er­ship, the decline in Lenin’s health, and the year elapsed since his death.”
  • A Sixth Part Of The World (1926) A mix­ture of news­reel and found footage that, accord­ing to the Inter­net Archive, the film depict­ed “through the trav­el­ogue for­mat [ … ] the mul­ti­tude of Sovi­et peo­ples in remote areas of USSR and detailed the entire­ty of the wealth of the Sovi­et land,” mak­ing “a call for uni­fi­ca­tion in order to build a ‘com­plete social­ist soci­ety.’ ”
  • Stride, Sovi­et! (1926) “What began as a com­mis­sion by the sit­ting Moscow Sovi­et for a pro­mo­tion­al movie,” says the Har­vard Film Archive, “was trans­formed by Ver­tov into some­thing else entire­ly: a film exper­i­ment, an emo­tion­al film – any­thing but a pic­ture that would help the Mossovet be reelect­ed.”
  • The Eleventh Year (1928) A cel­e­bra­tion of “the tenth anniver­sary of the Octo­ber Rev­o­lu­tion” which, accord­ing to the Har­vard Film Archive, presents that decade of social­ism “in the eyes of a left-wing artist of the twen­ties” as “a rad­i­cal social exper­i­ment [ … ] required to be pre­sent­ed in a rad­i­cal­ly exper­i­men­tal way.”
  • Man with a Movie Cam­era (1929) “Made up as it is of ‘bits and pieces’ of cities from Moscow to the Ukraine,” writes Sens­es of Cin­e­ma’s Jonathan Daw­son, it “remains a per­fect dis­til­la­tion of the sense of a mod­ern city life that looks fresh and true still,” “the strongest reminder that, in spite of the extra­or­di­nary pres­sures on his per­son­al and work­ing life, Ver­tov was one of the great­est of all the pio­neer film­mak­ers.”
  • Three Songs About Lenin (1934) Also known as Three Songs of Lenin and Three Songs Ded­i­cat­ed to Lenin, a deliv­ery of exact­ly what the title promis­es — but with a Ver­tov­ian styl­is­tic slant.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

200 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online, part of our col­lec­tion: 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

65 Free Char­lie Chap­lin Films Online

35 Free Oscar Win­ning Films Avail­able on the Web

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Lo Galluccio says:

    I’m a huge Pat­ti Smith fan. But where is “Slouch­ing Toward Beth­le­hem” by Joan Did­ion? Man, I’m sur­prised.

  • thierry says:

    Great footage, but I found the score unbear­able… could­n’t keep on watch­ing!

  • Anu Nepal says:

    Hi There

    How can I acquire your con­tent for broad­cast on a com­mu­ni­ty tele­vi­sion plat­form?

    Kind regards


  • satan says:

    Noth­ing odd in this video here. Clas­si­cal theme, pheas­ant and labor unite, and take pow­er away from church, bour­geois and kulaks. Women dont have to be pros­ti­tutes, robed prop­er­ty comes back to peo­ple.

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