Khronika: Soviet Newsreel at the Dawn of the Information Age

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Khronika: Soviet Newsreel at the Dawn of the Information Age

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Title: Khronika: Soviet Newsreel at the Dawn of the Information Age
Author: Pozdorovkin, Maxim
Citation: Pozdorovkin, Maxim. 2012. Khronika: Soviet Newsreel at the Dawn of the Information Age. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation considers ten years in the life of one word. Between 1918 and 1928, khronika—the Russian word that describes newsreel filmmaking—became the site of extensive debates about the aesthetics and social responsibilities of the documentary film. Following the February revolution of 1917, khronika was promoted as the privileged record keeper of a new historical era, catalyzing a period of unprecedented formal innovation. During this period, Soviet documentarians transform the relationship between text and image, developing a film style that integrated verbal and visual material. In newsreel journal such as Kino-Pravda, images cease to be passive illustrations accompanying text and are for the first time treated as equally capable of delivering propositional content. Like other modernist art practices, khronika develops in dialogue with attempts to define its essence as a film genre and its medium specificity. Falling under the influence of competing strains within Constructivism, khronika is first conceived as a purely visual medium and then again as a purely factual one.
Made up of seventeen variations on the social, political, and aesthetic aspects of khronika's evolution, the dissertation makes a crucial revision of documentary history. Rather than focus on the first instances of non-fiction films that adapt the narrative conventions of fiction film, Khronika examines the origins of documentary as an informational medium. Drawing on film theory, history of science, and philosophy, Khronika asks what it was that film learned to express during the first tumultuous decade when documentaries ceased to be windows onto a world and become the active interpreters of the reality captured by motion picture cameras.
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