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The Battle of Russia part I by Capra, Frank

THE BATTLE OF RUSSIA PART I & II cover the Soviet war with Germany from 1941 to early 1943. Part I shows how the Nazi regime, frustrated by the tenacity of British resistance, sets its sights on the Soviet Union instead. As it follows the Nazi march into Russian territory, the film provides a brief summary of the attempts of foreign powers to invade Russia over the past seven hundred years. It explains why the country is such a hot prize and why no army in history ever succeeded in conquering it. Hitler is portrayed as a fool, his hubris blinding him to the evidence of history.

About the series
The seven part "Why we fight" series is considered the most powerful American propaganda ever produced and was the winner of an Academy Award in 1942 for Best Documentary. This outstanding and historic series traces the earliest beginnings of the second world war starting with Library of Congress National Film RegistryJapan's invasion of China in 1931, to the Nazi's march across europe. The series features extensive historic footage from both allied and axis sources. In 2000 the "Why We Fight" series was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry and remains a prime source of archival footage for the period.

Propaganda
The Why We Fight series was a massive effort on the part of the United States government to indoctrinate the millions of young men and women inducted into military service following the American entry into World War II. The making of this series and other large-scale information and education films, as they were called, was planned and supervised by Frank Capra. One of the most popular Hollywood filmmakers of the late 1930s, he had no prior documentary experience.

Concept & style
Why We Fight series was based on the assumption that servicemen would be more willing and able fighters if they knew the events that led up to, and the reasons for our participation in the war. It had to counteract the spirit of isolationism still strong in this country up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In this attempt it offered a gigantic historical treatise from a particular, "liberal" point of view — that is to say, the New Deal viewpoint of the Democratic administration prevalent in the country at the time.

Social interest
The series was shown at military training facilities and later to the public in theatres to explain American policy and the war effort abroad. Though often blatantly propagandistic, this series provides great insight into the minds of Americans two thirds of a century ago. It argues that freedom is a threat to the fascist dictators of the Axis powers, who claim that democracy is weak and must be eradicated. It further claims that the ultimate goal of the Axis powers is to enslave the nations of the "free world.

Historic Interest
The film illustrates how the Red Army's method of fighting -- a scorched-earth strategy and a reliance on guerilla and urban warfare -- was bound to defeat the Nazis as it had defeated every invader before them. Capra's favorable portrait of the Russians is notable. Released two years before the start of the Cold War, the film portrays the Soviets as a diverse and freedom-loving people, in many ways similar to their then-allies, the people of the United States.

Political interest
People who know why World War II began will immediately notice that Capra omits any mention of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which in 1939 divided eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet-occupied spheres of influence. Film critics will also notice that Capra relied extensively on Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein's films and Soviet propaganda footage for much of his material. In spite of the film's soft peddling of Soviet complicity in the start of World War II, it did serve its purpose of reminding Americans of the tremendous sacrifices the Russian people were making to crush the Nazi regime.

Credits
1943 Academy award for best documentary.

  • Producer: Frank Capra
  • Screenplay: Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein, Rober Heller
  • Director: Frank Capra, Anatole Litvak
  • Editor: William Hornbeck
  • Music: arranged by Dimitri Tiomkin and selected from Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Rimsky Korsakov
  • Cinematographer: Robert Flaherty
  • Narrator: Walter Huston
  • Director
    Capra, Frank
    Copyright Holder
    DocsOnline
    Duration
    36 min.
    Year of release
    1943
    Language
    English

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