Amateur Filmmaking in the Latvian SSR: The De-ideologization of Soviet Everyday Life
Supervisor: Dr Phil Cavendish
research project will be dedicated to amateur cinema in Soviet Latvia,
produced between the early 1960s and late 1980s. It will aim to give
Latvian amateur cinema a place on the map of amateur film history in the
Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries.
In the 1950s, amateur filmmaking had become a well-established feature of everyday life in the Soviet Union. Interestingly, no centralized governmental organism existed to control the output of amateur filmmaking clubs, and as a result, state ideology was not always the primary motivation for making amateur films. In the case of the Soviet Union, works that dared to experiment with visual techniques and themes invariably emerged from the periphery, where the regime never had the same control. Latvia was arguably the most Russified and Sovietized of the three Baltic republics, and yet at the same time managed to produce a very diverse and inquisitive body of amateur films under the socialist rule, one which makes its example unique.
I will endeavour to identify and analyse the various
functions that Latvian amateur filmmaking performed beyond its
ostensible mission of transmitting Soviet ideology, and to examine the
role of amateur filmmaking in creating alternative political, social and
cultural meanings and prospects for national identity development. The
attempt to answer the following questions will be made: did
Sovietization mean complete cultural control in case of Latvia? What
meanings outside Soviet official discourse did amateur films manage to
generate? Might these meanings have disrupted and subverted the system
that licensed their production? Consequently, I hope to expand our
knowledge of amateur filmmaking culture in the Soviet Union and to
establish its importance in a global context. I also strive to
de-conceptualize amateur cinema as an exclusively home-based phenomenon
by focusing on its broader artistic, social and political uses.