Project Description

The Russian Revolution. A cut-out animation.

1917 – The Real October

VOD English version on Vimeo

DVD with English and German versions and various subtitles available on and at bookstores in Germany, Switzerland and Austria (ISBN 978-3-9812395-7-7).

Exhibition Der Animadoc von Katrin Rothe, Deutsches Institut für Animationsfilm, Dresden, September 8, 2018 to April 28, 2019

Film on Facebook (in German)

A cut-out animation on artists in times of revolution.

St. Petersburg 1917. The frontline of the global war is coming closer everyday; people are hungry, worried, angry. In February the tsar is overthrown. Many artists are euphoric: Revolution! Freedom! Freedom, finally? No. Starting in October, the Bolsheviks rule by themselves. What were poets, thinkers, and avant-gardists like Maxim Gorky and Kazimir Malevich doing during this drastic change of power? In the film, five of them alight from the director’s piles of books as animated cut-out figures. With their own recorded words in their mouths, they participate in salons, committees, and street riots: moments during which the outcome of the history is still unknown.

director: Katrin Rothe
genre: animadoc – animated documentary 
duration: theatrical 90 min. / TV 52 + 45 min.
format: 4K / 2K / DCP

year: 2017

1917 - The Real October
original title 1917 – Der wahre Oktober

written & directed by Katrin Rothe
music by Thomas Mävers
editing by Silke Botsch

Zinaida Gippius
voice Claudia Michelsen, Nicolaia Marston
animation Lisa Neubauer, Caroline Hamann

Alexander Benois
voice Hanns Zischler, Michael Morris
animation Gabriel Möhring

Vladimir Mayakovsky
voice Maximilian Brauer, Steve Hudson
animation Lydia Günther

Maxim Gorky
voice Martin Schneider, Trevor Roling
animation Matthias Daenschel, Gabriel Möhring

Kazimir Malevich
voice Arne Fuhrmann, Paul Bendelow
animation Jule Körperich, Karin Demuth

narrator voice Inka Friedrich, Danielle Green

reader Klemens Fuhrmann, Michael Morris

additional animations Kirill Abdrakhmanov, Caterina Wölfle, Donata Schmidt-Werthern, Thurit Antonia Kremer, Maria Szeliga
storyboard Caroline Hamann
character design Jonathan Webber
side-character design Nino Christen, Keti Zautashvili
background design Alma Weber, Caterina Wölfle
screen print Susann Pönisch
color design Tonina Matamalas
puppet construction & costume design Hélène Tragesser, Alma Weber, Lydia Günther, Doris Weinberger, Tamari Bunjes, Maria Steimetz
line producer animation Katrin Rothe
compositing Matthias Daenschel, Rainer Ludwigs, Felix Knöpfle, Thorsten Pengel, Katrin Rothe
cinematography animation Björn Ullrich, Markus Wustmann
assistants Anna Maysuk, Liza Cramer, Gregor Stephani, Donata Schmidt-Werthern, Lara Czielinski, Lina Walde, Knut Rothe, Jenefer Flach
production assistant Sophia Rubischung
cinematography Thomas Schneider, Robert Laatz
art department Dennis Hannig
live action stills Thomas Funke
sound design Anders Wasserfall
beatbox artist Das Friedl
foley artists André Feldhaus, Urs Krüger
voice recording Klemens Fuhrmann, soundcompany berlin audiopost
voice recording English Ramon Orza, Tonstudios Z.
music recording Stefan Ulrich, palais aux etoiles
sound mixing Oliver Sroweleit, Studio Nord Bremen
post-production supervisor Thorsten Pengel
cutter tv versions Fabian Eggenschwiler
color grading Lucas Keßler
post-production Arno Schumann, Montagehalle
subtitles (creation) Cinetyp AG
historical consultants Margarete Vöhringer, Heiko Naumann
legal adviser Alexandra Hölzer
pr text Maja Maria Liebau
lectorate Astrid Herbold
translations Lydia Nagel, Susanne Rödel, Imogen Rose Taylor, Jekaterina Jevtusevskaja, Interna Translations AG

many thanks to Jan Asmus, Natalie Bitumski, Jochen Coldewey, Gabriele Conrad, Czentrifuga Art Collective, Otto Das, Andreas Eichler, Elias Emken, Fleur de Sel Bistro, Beat Gipp, Veronika Grob, Vetta Kirillova, Robert Leichensring, Martin Lorentz, Kameraverleih Ludwig, Kiezkantine Oderberger Straße, Wanja Müller, mob e.V. (Mara & Olga), Oleg Myrzak, Mikhail Myzgin, Natalia, Kirsten Niehuus, Silke Panzer, Michael Schmacke, Johannes Stern, Maja Turovskaja, Katja Uhlig, Heike Warmuth

production managers Nicole Schink, Sereina Gabathuler, Rainer Baumert (rbb)
production consultant Gunter Hanfgarn
commissioning editors  Dagmar Mielke (rbb/ARTE), Rolf Bergmann (rbb), Suzanne Biermann (ARTE G.E.I.E.), Denise Chervet (SRF Sternstunde), Gabriela Bloch Steinemann (SRG SSR)
producers Katrin Rothe, Werner Schweizer, Peter Roloff

production Katrin Rothe Filmproduktion
in coproduction with
Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion
maxim film
Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg in cooperation with ARTE
Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen

funded by
Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg
nordmedia Film- und Mediengesellschaft Niedersachen/Bremen
Zürcher Filmstiftung
Stiftung Studienbibliothek zur Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung

© 2017 Katrin Rothe Filmproduktion, Dschoint Ventschr Filmproduktion AG, Edition Maxim Bremen, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg

1917 – The Real October is a cinematic retelling of the Russian Revolution. Based partially on previously unknown source material, diaries, reports, and literary works of her animated protagonists, the two-time Grimme-Award-winner Katrin Rothe undertakes a multi-perspective interrogation of what is nowadays known as “October Revolution.”

What happened in Saint Petersburg, then known as Petrograd, during the time between the uprisings in February that forced the Tsar to abdicate and the takeover of power by the Bolsheviks in October? During this phase of the Provisional Government (a diarchy of the parliament Duma as well as the Soviets, the workers’ council) Russia drowned in chaos and anarchy. Amidst the on-going world-war it remained without a binding constitution. Why was no civil-parliamentary democracy formed? How did the return of Lenin and Trotzky change the situation in springtime? Which side had when and where how many military or other forces of arms?

The director’s attention is focused on the developments within a dangerous instable power vacuum. Along the historic chronology of the events she dives, along with her figures, into their social, cultural, and national policy discourse, into private worlds of thought, bold visions, and flaming pleas – into contradictory, vivid opinions, which change during the course of the events. Out of the diverse reflexions of these artistic contemporaries, a trenchant differentiation of the two revolutions of the year emerges.

How world famous the film’s protagonists would become is still unknown at the time of the occurrences. In 1917 all of them are cultivating contacts to each other as well as to various sections of the community in St. Petersburg. The lyricist Zinaida Gippius (voiced by Nicolaia Marston), then 47 years of age, lives opposite the Tauride Palace, the parliament building, in which the discordant Provisional Government confers separately. She is friends with several ministers and many a paper of grave political importance is authored on her kitchen table. The established painter and critic Alexandre Benois (Michael Morris), 47, as well as the internationally acknowledged writer Maxim Gorky (Trevor Rolling), 49, are already well established in Russia’s cultural life. Both fear the destruction of art and creativity. The bustling avant-gardist and soldier Kazimir Malevich (Paul Bendelow), 38, proves himself as a resourceful organiser and publishes one manifest after another. Vladimir Mayakovsky (Steve Hudson), the 25-year-old eccentric poet, tirelessly dashes through the city, is everywhere where it is dangerous and tangles with the older artists. He is dreaming of a new world and a radically different, truly democratic art.

Zinaida Gippius, the poetic “chronographer” of the occurrences of 1917 writes in February: “Like everyone else, I can’t get to grips with these times” and in autumn: “There is […] no more homeland.” Almost one hundred years later, the film artist Katrin Rothe sweeps together the colourful snippets of her cut-out figures and scenarios on the floor of her study. The inserted real-life scenes with her as a questioning and arraying narrator (voiced by Danielle Green) link the animated pictures together. Left unsatisfied by the reading of plenty of historical scholarly books, she searches for and finds more vivid thoughts, observations, and “truths” in the contemporary testimonies of the artists. At the same time, a chronological timeline of the historical facts grows gradually underneath her hands – ultimately woven around by a weave of “red threads”: the approach remains as many-voiced as life itself, even in the re-constructing retrospect.

The visual aesthetics of the film are orientated towards that of the then-contemporaries (i.e. the eager to try new things, heavily abstract, explicit design-vocabulary of the Russian avant-gardists) and unfolds, adopted into today’s world with plenty of charm, an entirely autonomous style. Its unabashed imaginative mixture of artistic and filmic means is characteristic for 1917 – THE REAL OCTOBER. Various materials such as cardboard, cords, and fabric join together to form the characteristic main characters, which “awake” as cut-out animations with complex and highly variably facial expressions, gestures, and body language. At the same time not even a tiny piece of bubble wrap or fake fur denies its actual texture; if anything, the material plays an important part in the finished composition. The interiors, backgrounds, and city panoramas combine serigraphy, fine line drawings, and colourized tableaus of various different cue states, in front of which the protagonists turn up, as well as paper cuttings of demonstrating masses, dancing couples, marching troops, and three-dimensional collages. Historical black and white shots complement the dramatic composition with impressive references to the layer of the actual historical events and their existential dimension. Just as the visual, so is the auditory aspect of the film a stringently mixed cooperation of heterogenic elements. Specially composed music by Thomas Mävers, noises, historical sound on tape, tonal atmospheres and the speaking voices compose a river of layers with different density that reinforces the pictures’ moods and enriches them at the same time.

For the first time 1917 – The Real October illuminates the historical subject on the basis of applicable artist biographies and thus debates superordinate, timelessly relevant culture-historical and culture-theoretical aspects at the same time: what role do arts and artists play, what role can they even play in turmoil, awakenings, and upheavals of established social systems? Where and how do they promote the events themselves with their compositions, ideas, and visions in an explanatory, propagandizing, and doubting way? Do they take a stand for the preservation of the cultural and artistic heritage? Or for renewal programmes that entail the destruction of the old? What is their leeway in this endeavour? What happens to the arts when life itself is in danger? What relations did and do artists bear to political structures, to state and financial powers? Can art ever be truly democratic? Is artistic autonomy or collective self-administration possible? How? Within the film, the acts and thoughts of the protagonists answer these questions in different ways. All of the artists perceive what happens differently, process it individually in their own reflexions and works, in their everyday-lives and political commitments, and thus return it to their surroundings, where it is cultivated further. In the concreteness of the year of the Russian Revolution cultural history manifests exemplarily as a sum of historical circumstances, occurrences, and personal fate.

TV Premieres
rbb (Germany), November 5, 2017
ARTE (Germany/France), November 1, 2017
DW-tv (Germany), October 25, 2017
SRF 1 (Switzerland), October 8, 2017
rbb (Germany), April 22, 2018 – feature-length version

Festivals – Awards – Specials

Exhibition Der Animadoc von Katrin Rothe
DIAF – Deutsches Institut für Animationsfilm, Dresden
September 8, 2018 to April 28, 2019

REX Animationsfestival, Stockholm, Sweden
October 11-14, 2018

Forum des Images, Paris, France
October 4, 2018

Golden Unicorn Awards film tour, Russia
Moscow, September 21, 2018 – in attendance of director
St. Petersburg, September 22, 2018 – in attendance of director
Voronezh, October 4, 2018

Documentarist Istanbul Documentary Days, Turkey
June, 9-14 2018

Technische Sammlungen, Dresden, Germany
single exhibition
summer 2018

Future Film Festival, Bologna, Italia,
May 31, 2018

Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
„Flipbook, the Revolutionary Animations of the 21st Century“, group exhibition
Opening May 17, 2018

573 Film Festival, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA
April 8, 2018

Animation Film Festival of Meknes, Morocco
March 17-21, 2018

MONSTRA – Lisbon Animated Film Festival, Portugal
March 13-16, 2018

8 Women Film Festival, Moscow
March 13, 2018

tricky women, Vienna, Austria
Screening, panel discussion, group exhibition
March 10 – April 5, 2018

CIAF – Cairo International Animation Forum, Egypt
in competition
February 2018

Goethe-Institut Chicago, USA
December 8, 2017

Russian Film Week / Golden Unicorn Awards, London
November 21, 2017

Gijón International Film Festival, Spain
November 17-25, 2017

Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, USA
November 16, 2017

Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival &
Spectrum of Communism” – Conference and Exhibition
OSA Vera & Donald Blinken Open Society Archives/Central European University
Budapest, Hungary
November 11, 2017 & exhibition

Museum of Nonconformist Art, St. Petersburg, Russland & acc Galerie Weimar, Germany
Double exhibition „A Romance with Revolution”
November 10, 2017

North American Premiere
St. Louis International Film Festival, USA
November 9, 2017

South American Premiere
Mostra – Sao Paulo International Film Festival, Brazil
New Filmmakers Competition
October 19, 20,22 & 28 2017

Best Documentary Award
International Film Festival „Russia Abroad“, Moscow
November 13, 2017

FilmFestival Cottbus – Festival for East European Films, Germany
November 8, 2017

Arras Film Festival, France
November 3-12, 2017

Cinanima – International Animated Film Festival of Espinho, Portugal
November 6-12, 2017

Reanimania – International Animation Films & Comic Arts Festival of Yerevan,
Armenia, October 28 – November 3, 2017

Asian Premiere
BIAF – Bucheon International Animation Festival, South Korea
October 20-24, 2017

TERRITORY Festival, Moscow
October 23, 2017

Jewish Film Festival Vienna, Austria
October 4-18, 2017

Kapittel – Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech,
Norway, September 20-24, 2017

Fantoche – International Festival for Animation Film, Baden, Switzerland
September 9-10, 2017

1st History Film Festival, Rijeka, Croatia
September 6, 2017

Kunstfest Weimar, Germany
September 2, 2017

Perform Film Festival, Moscow
July 13, 2017, Tretjakov Gallery
July 17, 2017, Kino Center October

MIF17 – Manchester International Festival, Great Britain
14. Juli 2017, HOME

SWR Doku Festivaldokville Summit
Stuttgart, Germany, Metropol Kino
June 30, 2017, panel discussion with director & screening

Russian Premiere
Moscow International Film Festival
, Russia
June 26 + 28, 2017
Film Center “October”

International Premiere
International Animation Film Festival Annecy, France
June 12, 13 + 15, 2017, Pathé 5

Bremen, Germany
Theater Bremen – “Kapputalismus” series  in cooperation with 
Heinrich Böll Stiftung Bremen
and Filmbüro Bremen, June 11, 2017

Dokwochen Jena (Jena Documentary Weeks), Germany
Opening film
May 24, 2017

Metropol Gera, Gera, Germany
Documentary of the month
May 23, 2017

Giessen University, Prof. Ulrike Weckel, Giessen, Germany
Kinocenter Gießen
Mai 18, 2017

Swiss and German theatrical releases
May 2017
for cinemas and schedules visit

Making of…
Animatorium, Zurich, Switzerland
Exhibition opening May 4, 2017
May 4 – 27, 2017

Kino Stüssihof, Zürich, Switzerland
May 4 – 31, 2017

Filmkunstfest Schwerin, Schwerin, Germany – in documentary competition
May 3 + 6, 2017,

German Premiere
achtung berlin – new berlin film award – in documentary competition
April 20, 2017 – Volksbühne – Grand Hall
April 21 + 22, 2017 – Babylon

World Premiere
Solothurn Film Festival, Switzerland
Kino Capitol
January 21, 2017

VOD – Video on Demand – English version on Vimeo

Languages: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), German (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, Korean
Available on and at bookstores in Germany, Switzerland and Austria (ISBN 978-3-9812395-7-7)

World Sales
Dasselstr. 75-77
50674 Köln, Germany
phone +49 (221) 168 197 4
fax +49 (221) 168 197 47

market screening
EFM Berlin
February 14, 2017

please contact
Katrin Rothe Filmproduktion

press kit
press pictures
film poster