Odessa Film Studio – “Ukrainian Hollywood”
Are you still convinced that the cinema started in Paris, that the Lumière brothers invented it? This means that you have never been in Odessa.
At the Second Christian cemetery of the city, on a monument made of black labrador, it is carved that here lies the inventor of the world’s first movie camera, Joseph Timchenko. It was he, the chief mechanic of the training workshops of the Odessa (then) Novorossiysk University, who designed and built an unprecedented apparatus with his own hands and shot with it two tapes: “The Rider” and “The Lance Thrower” in the summer of 1893. And on January 9, 1894, he showed these tapes on a screen using the same apparatus at a meeting of the physics section of the 9th Congress of Russian Physicians and Naturalists in Moscow.
And what about Auguste and Louis Lumiere? They showed “The Arrival of the Train” and “The Exit of Workers from the Lumiere Factory” only on December 25, 1895. More than two years after!
In the protocol of the physics section meeting is written:
The section reacted with interest to the ingenious invention of Mr. Timchenko … and decided to express its gratitude to himPhysics section protocol
It never occurred to anyone to patent an invention. Who, then, could have foreseen what would eventually develop from this! And the Lumière brothers not only patented their invention, but also through the network of stores of Lumiere Father (his factory produced photographic materials) distributed it throughout Europe.
But let’s not forget that cinema still began with Timchenko. And the cinematic life in Odessa continued with the help of Miron Osipovich Grossman, a photographer who bought a French camera in 1907, began the first professional filming from documentaries for the French film companies “Pathe” and “Gaumont”.
And he built his own cinema studio in Odessa on French Boulevard, 14, directly opposite the territory where the Odessa film studio of feature films is now located. Its address is French Boulevard, 33.
These adjacent lands, divided only by a narrow boulevard, have forever become the cinematic territory of Odessa. On the land of Mr. Valtukh, an Odessa bookseller, (French boulevard, 33), the cinema studio of Nikolai Ivanovich Kharitonov is located. After the revolution, both cinemas were nationalised, and on their basis, on these lands, the country’s first state film factory VUFKU (All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration) was organised.
Its main core – pavilions, workshops, management – on the coastal side of the boulevard. And across the street, French boulevard, 14. in a building built before the revolution, there was a studio hotel.
The time of the existence of the Odessa film studio (the VUFKU film factory, then the First Komsomol Film Factory, then the Ukrainfilm Studios) is counted from May 23, 1919, when on the remains of the Grossman, Kharitonov, Borisov studios, by the decision of the Odessa Provincial Executive Committee, the first state-owned enterprise in the country was created to shoot films.
We want to remind that the decree on the nationalization of the entire film and photography business was signed by Lenin only in August 1919. At first, the studio relied on the creative experience of the outstanding directors of pre-revolutionary cinema who had previously worked for Grossman, Kharitonov, Bauer – P. Chardynin, V. Gardin, N. Saltykov, P. Sazonov. But soon the doors for the young were wide open: the artist Alexander Dovzhenko, the sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze, the theater director Les Kurbas, and the talented photographer Daniil Demutsky came.
Dovzhenko arrived in Odessa in 1926, where, according to his script, written for the first time in his life, the film “Vasya the Reformer” was filmed. The work of the director F. Lopatinsky did not work out, and the director of the studio Pavlo Neches appointed Dovzhenko to finish the picture. Nothing good came of it. Nevertheless, Alexander Petrovich is given the opportunity to try again: to write the script himself, to recruit the actors himself, to direct from beginning to end.
“Berry of Love” is Dovzhenko’s second comedy at the Odessa Film Factory of VUFKU. She did not bring fame to the director, but contributed to the accumulation of experience. And the next picture – “The Diplomatic Courier’s Bag” – is already quite professional work, with a good rolling fate.
Then A. Dovzhenko creates his first masterpiece “Zvenigor”, followed by the world famous “Arsenal”.
It was the Odessa studio that gave the world a great director, thinker, patriot – Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko.
Here I. Kavaleridze shot the first sound tape in Ukraine “Koliivshchyna”. For the first time, the studio presented “Taras Shevchenko” in a brilliant performance by Ambrose Buchma (“Taras Shevchenko” directed by P. Chardynin.) The Ukrainian classics – “Mykola Dzherya”, “Borislav Smіnitsya”, “Sorochinsky Fair”, “Zakhar Berkut” were generously screened., “Karmelyuk” and others. Outstanding actors gained experience in cnematography here – Maria Zankovetskaya, Natalya Uzhviy, Ambrose Buchma, Nikolai Nademsky.
The Odessa Film Studio was the first cinematic school of actors, who later brought their talent to the audience both at the Kyiv studio and at other studios in the country.
It was on the basis of the Odessa Film Studio, with the direct participation of its creative and technical workers in Odessa, that a film technical school was created, which trained professional filmmakers in various industries, from actors, directors, screenwriters to film processing specialists, projectionists, lighting engineers, etc.
The screenwriter’s department at the studio was led by talented people who later took a leading place in Soviet literature – Yuri Yanovsky, Mikola Bazhan, Alexander Korneichuk. In 1928, the studio created 27 feature films! This is without taking into account the numerous products of educational tapes. Created much later Yalta film factory never reached such a level.
Scripts here were written by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Isaac Babel, and many other already famous writers. Babel offered the studio a script about the bandit Mishka Yaponchik, popular bandit in Odessa. Vladimir Vilner directed the film “Benya Krik” based on it.
Until 1929, when the production of the newly created Kyiv studio began to appear on the screen, only Odessa films represented Ukrainian cinema both on the domestic and on the world screen.
The thirties were years of loss for the studio. 1937 – only five films, 1939 – only two.
It was at the Odessa studio that the genre of marine movies was founded in the national cinema, which successfully continued in the post-war years.
During the war, the studio was evacuated to Tashkent, partly to Alma-Ata. In the famous films “Two Soldiers” by Leonid Lukov, “Ivan the Terrible” by Sergei Eisenstein and many others, filmed during the war, there is a significant part of the work of Odessa filmmakers – directors, cameramen, artists, sound technicians.
After the liberation of Odessa the studio was given the status of a technical base, and it became a summer shooting site for “Mosfilm”. The revived workshops of the studio provided high-quality services to the difficult-to-produce pictures of the leading figures of Russian cinema Vsevolod Pudovkin, Mikhail Romm, Alexander Ptushko and others. The scenery in the film “Sadko” amazed with its splendor, the impressive sea battles were carried out by thoroughly executed models of sailing ships in the film Ships Storm Bastions. The workshop for combined filming, the workshop for decorative and technical products were revived after the war and were the best in the country.
Photos: Vikna Odessa