Stalin…The Funeral of a God
A Film by Nino Kirtadze, based on the cinematography of Soviet Filmmaker Mikheil Chiaureli 60 Minutes
Rare color footage shot by one of the Soviet Union’s greatest filmmakers, Mikheil Chiaureli, who was responsible for the film “The Fall of Berlin” has been restored and edited into what can best be described as a sixty minute ‘you are there’ documentary covering the funeral of Stalin.
The Great Hall in Moscow glitters in candlelight and is filled with flowers and memorial wreaths. The common people and high level comrades pass by the bier to pay their respects. At the same time we witness simultaneous memorial services all over the communist world of the early 50’s: China, Korea…all of the Russian Eastern European satellite states. This is a remarkable alternative film created from Color Archives and using the official Russian State Radio Broadcast as the narrative track. English narrative and voice-over.
The film was created by the Academy Award winning documentary director Nino Kirtadze who is internationally renowned for her sensitive and compassionate approach to difficult issues and her intense visual sense. Her powerful feature-length documentaries deal with controversial subjects, always placing the accent on the human drama underlying her stories and creating deep insightful human portraits.
Soviet Filmmaker Mikheil Chiaureli emerged as one of the most important Soviet directors and cinematographers in the 1940s, and became Joseph Stalin’s favorite director. His movies contributed significantly to the creation of Stalin’s cult of personality. Stalin's cult of personality began to manifest itself already at the late 1930s, and was marginalized during World War II. To mobilize the population against the enemy, Soviet films focused on historical heroes who defended Russia or on the feats of the people themselves. The premier's character appeared in only two pictures during the war. However, as victory seemed secure, Stalin tightened his control over every aspect of the Soviet society, including cinema. After 1945, his cult returned to the screen with greater intensity than ever before, and he was credited as the sole architect of Germany's defeat. Denise J. Youngblood wrote that shortly afterwards, there remained only three kinds of war heroes: "the dead, the maimed and Stalin."
As much a deity as a dictator, Josef Stalin and his terror cast indelibly long shadows over Soviet life and imagination. When, in March 1953, news of Stalin’s death threw Soviet life into stunned disbelief, contemporaries described nothing less than “a rupture in time.” An extraordinary cycle of state-orchestrated mourning and spontaneous grief followed, much of it conveyed in this remarkable documentary,
The footage shot by Chiaureli was intended by the Soviet authorities to be the definitive account of history’s greatest loss. Ranging widely across the Soviet Union and points beyond – from Warsaw to Moscow to Beijing and Korean War battlefronts, and culminating in the dictator’s colossal Red Square funeral – “Stalin...The Funeral of a God” captures the pomp and intrigue-packed Soviet world of High Stalinism at its zenith. Long buried in Soviet-era archives, and unearthed by Kirtadze and her team, the footage jarringly returns us to a time when the slogan “Stalin is always with us” radiated hope and confidence in a bright Soviet future.
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