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Museum of Modern Art announces Mezhrabpom. The Red Dream Factory, 1922–1936

Museum of Modern Art, New York presents Mezhrabpom. The Red Dream Factory, 1922–1936, on view April 11–30, 2012.

This exhibition includes the first Russian sound film, Soviet science-fiction melodramas, a Soviet Western, and key works by such pivotal filmmakers as Boris Barnet, Yakov Protazanov, and Vsevolod Pudovkin.

With 35mm prints and digital restorations borrowed from Berlin’s Deutsche Kinemathek, Moscow’s Gosfilmofond, Paris’s Cinémathèque francaise, Munich’s Filmmuseum, Vienna’s Österreichisches Filmmuseum, and The Museum of Modern Art’s own collection of Soviet films, Mezhrabpom: The Red Dream Factory focuses in on one of the Soviet Union’s most progressive and aesthetically challenging studios, in operation from 1922 through 1936. Mezhrabpom-Rus (International Workers Relief Studio) was not only known for its support of filmmakers like Pudovkin and Barnet, who expanded the language of cinema, but also for its affiliation with Prometheus Films in Berlin, where a large and active Communist party supported the Russian-German enterprise until Hitler put an end to the collaboration in 1933. In 1936, Stalin turned Mezhrabpom into a studio for making children’s films, depriving it of both its progressive propagandistic functions and its penchant for experimentation.

Between 19224 and 1936 Mezhrabpom made many significant Soviet films, including the first Soviet sound film, The Road to Life (Nikolai Ekk, 1931), and what is regarded as the world’s first science-fiction film, Aelita (1924), directed by Yakov Protazanov with Constructivist sets and costumes by Aleksandra Ekster. A popular Soviet “Western,” The Golden Lake, was actually set in the Soviet east, while the inventive A Kiss for Mary Pickford (Sergei Komarov, 1927) uses actual newsreel footage of then husband and wife Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’s trip to Russia in the mid-1920s. Of special interest are the silent version of noted German stage director Erwin Piscator’s Soviet film The Revolt of the Fishermen (1931–34), and Horizon (1933), a film by Lev Kuleshov (who taught many young Russian filmmakers the principles of editing) about Jewish emigration to America. Protazanov’s rarely shown satire of the Russian church, St. Jorgen’s Day (1930), is also included.

Many of the most influential Russian films of the period were made at Mezhrabpom and released internationally, including Pudovkin’s comedy Chess Fever (1925); his social-historical dramas Mother (1926) and The End of St. Petersburg (1927); and his Mongolia-set epic Storm over Asia (aka The Heir to Genghis Khan, 1928). Boris Barnet, a more naturalistic pioneer of silent cinema, is represented by Miss Mend (1926), a three part “detective” serial starring a woman, as well as Thaw (1931) and Outskirts (1933).

Complementing the series are two programs made in the U.S. by striking workers and independent left-wing filmmakers who may have received support of from the International Workers Relief Agency: the documentaries Passaic Textile Strike (1926), Workers Newsreel Unemployment Special (1930) and Bonus March (1932).

Mezhrabpom: The Red Dream Factory was originally organized by the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, Berlin, headed by Rainer Rother, commissioned for the 2012 Berlinale (the annual Berlin International Film Festival) under the auspices of its director, Dieter Kosslick. The Berlin exhibition was curated by Alexander Schwarz and Gunter Ade. MoMA’s adaptation was organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, and Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Mezhrabpom: The Red Dream Factory is the first in a series of exhibitions co-organized by the Deutsche Kinemathek and MoMA’s Department of Film for presentation annually at the Berlinale and MoMA. The second in this series will be announced later in the year.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400

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