Re-watching Vertov’s “Man with a Movie Camera” made me think outside of the film in the context of Russian history, and instead encouraged me to focus on how the film relates to our current media atmosphere. One particular quote of Vertov’s I’ve always loved is his insistence on capturing “life as it is.” He applies that exact statement to his film, and does not shy away from the uglier side of Soviet Russian culture, such the power and wealth imbalance between the working class and the bourgeoisie and the homelessness rampant in a country still suffering from the lingering effects of extreme poverty. However, Vertov’s maxim was quickly forgotten as Soviet propaganda flooded Russian cinemas, culminating in the truly ridiculous Soviet Realism genre (my favorite example of this genre is a movie titled “The Fall of Berlin” which ends with Stalin literally descending from the sky and single-handedly ending World War II while everyone sings about him being the beloved father/protector of Russia).
It was interesting to try to link Vertov with modern day media, and explore just how removed it is from Vertov’s idea of what makes media meaningful. Directors always claim that their stories grapple with real-life situations that resonate with any filmgoer, and yet consistently fail to diversify their films to actually appeal to the wide range of American viewers (#OscarsSoWhite, anyone?). Even news media largely fails to report on important news events in an honestly and responsible manner, instead focusing on stories that will garner the most views while spreading half-truths and one-sided opinions. While I can’t deny that the internet is filled an abundance of falsities and fake news sites, it may be that news media offered by independent websites most accurately capture Vertov’s “life as it is” guideline, such as the sites discussed at the opening of Monday’s class. If we can’t rely on mass/popular media for accurate depictions of life and culture, it makes sense that we resort to independent sources for the viewpoints needed to counter popular thought.