Buba. 1930. USSR. Written and directed by Noutsa Gogoberidze. DCP. 37 min.
Filmed in the Ratcha region in Northern Georgia, Buba (the name of the mountain village) was the second of three films directed by Georgian filmmaker Noutsa Gogoberidze before her career was cut short by Stalinist purges. Weaving Socialist ideology with careful attention to both the region’s natural grandeur and the remote villagers’ daily life and work, this visually striking and rhythmic propaganda documentary is the result of a collaboration between Gogoberidze and avant-garde artist David Kakabadze, who served as the production designer. In 1937, Gogoberidze’s husband was executed for being an enemy of the people, while she was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in exile. Her three films were banned, and she was unable have a film career when she returned, eventually working in the lexicography department at the Linguistics Institute in Tbilisi. Although often hailed as the “mother of Georgian cinema”—her daughter, Lana Gogoberidze, and granddaughter, Salomé Alexi, are also filmmakers—Noutsa still remains relatively unknown today compared to Soviet contemporaries like Alexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Eisenstein, and Mikhail Kalatozov.
A Crofter’s Life in Shetland. 1931. Scotland. Directed, written, produced, photographed, edited, and titled by Jenny Brown. Title effects by Barbara Scott. Digital preservation courtesy the National Library of Scotland - Moving Image Archive. 63 min.
Capturing a cyclical year in the lives of the men and women (and the birds and animals around them) who farm, fish, and sustain themselves on the Shetland Islands, the northernmost region in the United Kingdom, this engaging documentary portrait is filled with pathos, humor, and intimacy. Jenny Brown, known later as Jenny Gilbertson, was a self-taught amateur filmmaker from Glasgow who made several films in the region, eventually marrying a local crofter and making a life there (she died in Shetland in 1990). A Crofter’s Life in Shetland, like her short documentaries made in the following years—In Sheep’s Clothing and Scenes from a Shetland Croft Life, for example—displays a genuine interest in observing and recording the daily, often gendered, labor of the region’s inhabitants. Barbara Scott, whose work in film and connection to Brown remains a mystery to the WFPP editorial team, is credited with the playful intertitle visuals.
After making A Crofter’s Life in Shetland, Brown screened it for John Grierson, who was not only a fan—he reportedly called her “a real illuminator of life and movement”—but also encouraged her to invest in a professional camera and to make a more dramatized documentary (eventually resulting in Rugged Island: A Shetland Lyric). Grierson also later purchased five of Brown’s short Shetland documentaries for the GPO Film Library. Between the 1930s and the 1960s, Brown made a few more documentaries, including one in Canada with filmmaker Evelyn Spice (Prairie Winter), but primarily raised her children and worked as a teacher. She resumed her filmmaking career in the late 1960s, making, for instance, documentaries that focused on remote Inuit communities in Canada.