A Sixth Part of the World (A Kino-Eye Race around the USSR. Export and Import by the State Trading Organization of the U.S.S.R.)

Imperial Russians used the slogan “A Sixth Part of the World” to evoke their vast empire. The bombastic phrase was then adopted after World War I by a “newer,” “more efficient,” and “happier” Soviet empire, and it came in handy when Gostorg, a hugely profitable state trading trust, commissioned Vertov to make a promotional film about their nationwide operations and worldwide circulation of export goods such as furs, cotton, and grain. Vertov spent untold sums dispatching film crews to the farthest reaches of the Soviet territory. He created not an advertisement for Gostorg, but instead a Walt Whitmanesque ode to the vastness and diversity of his country, from the Saami people in the icy northern climes to the heat-tortured Uzbek in the landlocked south. Vertov lost his job at Sovkino, the State documentary unit, but he left us with one of the most poetic, unusual, and breathtaking documentaries ever made.

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