Man With a Movie Camera (Человек с кино-аппаратом) (1929)

Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera captures a day in the life of the Russian proletariat in 1920’s Soviet Union.  The quick sequences and endless jump cuts depict several soviet union cities, including: Odessa, Kharkov and Kiev.1  The structure is experimental for its time by incorporating a wide range of shots and avant-garde film techniques as well as veering from the standard ‘stage’ plot.  Man With a Movie Camera simultaneously shows a broad day in the life of the proletariat while providing a glimpse behind the scenes of the making of the film.  At times the film even stops to show the editor, his wife Elizaveta Svilova, and begins again once she has completed her edit.  This film was aimed to expand and challenge the contemporary structure of film that was driven by staging, plot, and intertitles.  Man With a Movie Camera is the culmination of Vertov’s kinok movement to expand the artistic bounds of film.2  This legendary film stands the test of time with its creativity, juxtaposition, and challenge to the contemporary norm.

Dark Days (2000)

Who knew that under the streets of New York, in abandoned subway tunnels, there were communities of vagabonds, drug addicts, and other transients slowly piecing together homes.  This intense and fascinating documentary shows what life is like for these people living in the most unusual manner and their struggle to make something of themselves. Marc Singer created an intimate experience that is enhanced by the fact it is in black and white.

By living in the community himself, for months, Singer was able to capture a ‘day in the life’ of this underground community that has fallen into complete complacency.  Each individual has their own story and path that brought them there.  However, the “safety” and consistency of the tunnels allows them to put their guard down.  The illusion of safety keeps them in the tunnel and exposed to disease, drugs, danger of getting hit by trains, and anything else the tunnel offers.  If this film shows us anything, it shows us how resilient the human race can be.  The scrappy hustlers living under New York city will be the ones to follow if there is ever an apocalypse.  This may have been dark days for this community, but the film brings an inspirational  and relentless message.

DJ Shadow’s soundtrack compliments the tone and vibe of the imagery perfectly.  DJ Shadow is able to amplify the energy throughout the film whether it be darkness or inspiration.  A soundtrack is such an important aspect of a great film and Dark Days is no exception.

A State of Mind (2005)

A spectacular movie that shows what North Korea is really like on a day to day basis.  Daniel Gordon takes the viewer through the day after day regiments and daily life for gymnasts that train all year for a chance to perform in the Pyongyang Mass Games.  These games are a large spectacle that are a kin to the opening ceremonies for the olympics, only on  grandeur scale.  The purpose of these Mass Games are best described by Jong-il Kim, “Mass gymnastics play an important role in training schoolchildren to acquire these communist qualities.”  Gordon and his crew were able to get so close and behind the scenes of, what appears to be, typical life in North Korea.  In the process they enlighten the viewer with, sometimes shocking, culture differences.  It is fascinating to see how the United States is perceived from within North Korea and the role propaganda plays in the North Korean psyche.