Documentary and History on Film

Brian Winston looks back at some of the ways in which history has been presented on the screen, and sees the documentary based on archival footage as intrinsic to its success.

Being a woman, a revolutionary Communist and a mere film editor are considerable obstacles to establishing a rightful place in the twentieth-century cinema’s pantheon of great film-makers, as a comparison of the career and subsequent reputation of Soviet newsreel editor Esfir Schub (1894-1959) proves. Yet Schub, who was all these things, richly deserves acknowledgement for overcoming such obstructions because it was she who created one of the most enduring and popular of all documentary film types – the historical archival compilation.

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