The St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Documentary Film Studios is Russia’s oldest state documentary studios, having been founded in 1918. From the material that has been shot by the Studio’s chroniclers, hundreds of films have been created, covering every aspect of Russian and foreign history in the 20th Century. Today, the Studios is one of the largest producers of documentaries, chronicles and film annals in Russia.
The Studio’s filmmakers could be found at work at the front during the Second World War (it was the only studio to operate at the front), and they continued working and filming in the blockaded and starving Leningrad of that war. In the 1960s the Studios became the country’s leading documentary film producer, and its directors and technicians amassed a vast horde of prizes and awards, both in Russia and at film festivals abroad.
Between 1957 and 1997 the Studios produced 950 documentary films, not including the film chronicles and newsreels that were made, which cover the entire North-Western territory of Russia: St.Petersburg (Leningrad), the Leningrad region, Yaroslavl, Ivanovo, Ukhta, Arkhangelsk, Bryansk, Novgorod, Kaluga, Kirov, the Komi Republic, and Kaliningrad. This amounts to over 900 hours of newsreel and chronicle material, and 500 hours of documentary film. That makes for 58 days of viewing.
The Studio’s archive contains a complete collection of film annals and chronicles dating back to 1957. In that year the Studio began regularly storing the chronicles, but the archive contains much more, dating back to the early 1900s. This collection of films, journals and annals represents a vast, rich archive source, which contains over 50,000 items. Many of these items are unique and have never before been released to the general public.
In the 1960s and 1970s the Studios created an entire gallery of portraits of the Soviet people, fascinating in their form and deep in their content. The Studios won fame, not only at home, but also abroad. The best works received prizes at All-Union and International film festivals. The powerful authorist grounding, humanitarianism, and close attention to «the man in the street» that can be seen in the films, led to widespread recognition of the Studio’s part in the «Leningrad Wave» of Russian filmmaking.
Towards the end of the 1980s, with the beginning of «Perestroika», the Studios did not take the easy way out. It stuck to its traditions and underlying concepts, rather than trying to keep up with the ever-changing demands of the political situation...
At the euphoric height of Perestroika, Alexander Sokurov, who has long been internationally recognized as a master of documentary filmmaking, shot A Soviet Elegy, which was in effect a documentary portrait of a rising political star, Boris Yeltsin, who at that early stage was in political disgrace. In 1991 the film was nominated for an Oscar in the documentary film category.
From the beginning of the 1990s the Studios was able to use its vast experience in catering for foreign viewers and its wide network of contacts to assist in joint projects with foreign television companies and independent producers.
The Studios has worked with Oy Yleisradio Ab (Finland), Deutche Welle and ZDF (Germany) (with ZDF the Studios produced the first Russian-German documentary series of films under the general title «Be Cursed, War» which was an examination of the Second World War), the BBC and Channel 4 (Great Britain).
At present we are continuing to document and record the passing of time: we currently produce ten full-length and short documentary films a year, as well as 150 works in our «The Chronicles of Russia» series. As long as the Studios has existed, it has kept a cinematic newsreel record of the country, either in the form of its on-going cinematic journals, or in completed mini-films of about two minutes in length. These are then collected into ten minute almanacs which are not necessarily intended for immediate use. Instead, they are stored as invaluable archive material and a source of highly objective information, only slightly personalized by the creative input of the artists: the directors and the cameramen.
The foundation of the creative workforce at the Studios is provided by its staff of professional filmmakers: directors, cameramen, sound technicians, producers and managers. These includes such established masters as Alexander Sokurov, Nikolai Obukhovich, Viktor Semenyuk, Viktor Kosakovsky and many more, who are all active participants in the work of the Studios. The Studios was one of the founders of the International Message to Man Film Festival in St. Petersburg.
Specialized enterprises also work at the Studios. They employ high quality technology and professional employees for the making of television and video films, as well as animated works. The Studios has its own up-to-date audio recording and re-recording facilities, facilities for film-to-video transposition, a department for positive and negative editing, as well as film printing and lighting departments and a garage. Symphonic, ecclesiastical, choral and modern music is recorded at our Studios using our audio facilities. We have a marvelous hall equipped with all the necessary technical equipment for recording music for CD and CD-ROM.
In addition to all that mentioned above, the studio can offer professional services in the making of adverts, presentational, informational and educational films, as well as in organizing the shooting of reportage and documentary material. Our vast archive, with material covering many years, can be used in the making of documentary and artistic films and television programs.
At the present moment the Studios has plans for the further development of its modern production technology for film, video and audio recordings, to support young personnel, to continue the production of «The Film Annals of Russia», to actively take part in film festival life, to produce thematic television programs, and to film commissioned projects.
The management and staff of the St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studios are open to collaboration and cooperation with colleagues from Russia and abroad.
12 Krukov Canal, St. Petersburg, Russia, 190068
Telephone: (7 812) 114 5312, 114 4592
Fax: (7 812) 114 3304