David Abelovich Kaufman aka Dziga Vertov (1896-1954) and Elizaveta Ignatevna Svilova (1900-1975) at the editing table


Mikhail Abramovich Kaufman (1897-1980), the self-styled ‘Buster Keaton of Soviet film-making’


Vertov was enlisted in January 1920 to manage the film and photography division of the trains. He travelled on the ‘October Revolution’ agit-train during the same year.

“The next step was my work on the agit-trains of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Comrade Lenin attached great significance to the use of film in the work of the agitational trains and steamers. And so on January 6, 1920, I leave with Comrade Kalinin for the southeast front. I take films with me. Including THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE REVOLUTION……We screen that film at all the train stops and carry it to urban movie theatres. At the same time, we shoot. The result is a film about the journey of the all-Russian senior leader, Kalinin. The period of my work concludes with the big film A HISTORY OF THE CIVIL WAR.”

“It is not difficult to see the influence of these first working experiences in Vertov’s later films. Examples can be found in his way of working with intertitles in addressing the audience directly, for example in Shestaia chast’ mira / A Sixth Part of the World (Dziga Vertov, 1926, USSR) or Tri pesni o Lenine / Three Songs of Lenin (Dziga Vertov, 1934, USSR) or the wish to be understood without words in his films at all, in Chelovek s kinoapparatom / Man with the Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929, USSR”.

From ‘Propaganda in Motion’ (see below).

We discover the souls of the machine, we are in love
with the worker at his bench, we are in love with the
farmer on his tractor, the engineer on his locomotive. We bring creative joy into every mechanical
activity. We make peace between man and the
machine. We educate the new man.
— Dziga Vertov




As the credited ‘Chief Operator M. Kaufman’ was on the screen for much of the time there was clearly another operator behind the camera. No one else is credited in the titles, but there is some evidence to show that the ‘assistant’ cinematographer was Gleb Troyanski (or Troyansky) who was presumably responsible for many of the wonderful sequences in the film, particularly in the mine and foundry (many of the images would stand alone as outstanding photographs), and the exhilarating ‘camera in the car’ scenes around Odessa. 

Graham Roberts, in ‘The Man with The Movie Camera Film Companion’, suggests it could be Peter Zotov (pp. [ix] and 72) as he believes he is the cameraman filming on the fire engine sequence [00:33:25] (even though he is wearing the same white shirt with notched collar and hat as Kaufman in the carousel sequence [00:55:27]). However, Troyanski is credited by other commentators (eg Luke Dormehl, ‘a Journey through Documentary Film’; Muriel Awards etc) and the film is included in Troyanski’s biographies. Maybe both, or more, were involved as Kaufman and Vertov worked with a number of other cameramen including Ivan Belyakov, Alexander Lemburg (father of Rodchenko’s ‘Girl with a Leica’, Evgenia Lemberg), and Samuil Bendersky. However, I have not uncovered biographical references (particularly on the IMDb website) to anyone other than Troyanski working on the film with the ‘Soviet of Three’ (as Vertov, Svilova and Kaufman referred to themselves). To be verified!