Blesok no. 35, March-April, 2004
The Mobile Cinema For The People
- about the Mobile Cinema of the Macedonian Ministry of Education in the period 1944-1950 -
The Mobile Cinemas are mostly linked with the pioneer days of the cinematography. In lack of permanent cinema theaters, the Mobile cinemas used to cruise through the smaller towns and settlements. In circus tents, in bars and restaurants, at open space, those were persistently introducing the new attraction – the moving pictures. Such cinemas, mainly from West and Midst Europe (Italy, France, Germany, Czechia…), started their “conquest” right after the invention of the “cinematograph”, which means – in 1895. Exactly that kind of Italian visited Bitola in 1897, and by our present knowledge, that was the first public film presentation in Macedonia. Little later, what means somewhere at the beginning of the XX century and further, a significant number of Macedonian individuals purchased mobile ciné-projectors and started to organize film projections in various places through the country. The mobile cinema of Milan Golubovski visited numerous settlements and towns in West Macedonia and Albania from 1907 until 1909. Later, at the end of 20’s and during the 30’s in XX century, many other mobile cinemas can be noted: those are the mobile cinemas of Kermaer Brothers from Czechia were cruising through the Ovčepole area; the circus with the mobile cinema attraction of Dimitar Stanoev – Fakir (called as The Miskedziya) from Delčevo, toured the Maleševo and Ovčepole areas; then, the mobile cinema of Ilija Dzonov from Bogdanci toured the Povardarie and Pelagonia areas and reached Ohrid. Along the entertaining character of those cinemas, one more fact should be emphasized – the mobile cinemas, during the development periods of cinematography, also had propaganda and educational role. Within all of the war parties involved in the Balkan Wars, and in both World Wars, there were mobile cinemas engaged both in entertaining and propaganda purposes within the army and civil population. The health education was also practiced through this medium, as it was the case with the Hygiene Institute from Skopje, that started with this kind of work in 1922, with its own mobile cinema. The goal of this institution was, through the projections of the educational films on health issues as primary health prevention and medical awareness, to educate the population of Macedonia in most of the widespread diseases as typhus, malaria, tuberculosis, etc.
After Second World War, in the federative units of the new Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (later: the Federative People’s Republic of Yugoslavia) a wide travelling network of mobile cinemas is being established, with purpose to entertain, agitate and educate the general population (with various kinds of means: health education, cultural enlightenment, sport training, competition in various areas of the social life, etc.). Macedonia, of course, wasn’t any exception from this rule. So, through the pages of the Macedonian press we can focus on the intensive work of the mobile cinemas organized by many various organizations and institutions: Chief Direction of the Macedonian Railways, Chief Board of Macedonian Red Cross, People’s Front City Council of Skopje, Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of Macedonia (further in the text – in its original initials: NRM; translator’s note), Hygiene Institute in Skopje, Central Committee of People’s Youth of Macedonia, etc.
In this text, we’re going to focus on the mobile cinema of the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of Macedonia because of the following reasons: it’s obvious that (by the archived documentation), besides the ASNOM’s (ASNOM/ASPLM – Antifascist Parliament of the People’s Liberation of Macedonia, translator’s note) Trustee Committee for Trade and Supplies, in which frames functioned the Cinematography Department, and also, besides FIDIMA (Film Direction of Macedonia), the Cinematography Committee of NRM, and the Ministry of Education of NRM, had a most significant role in the profiling of the Macedonian cinematographic ambient; the activities of this Ministry’s mobile cinema is also registered in the film documentary THROUGH PIRIN MACEDONIA (NIZ PIRINSKA MAKEDONIJA, 1948) by the film director Trajche Popov; and finally, judging by the press releases of that period, this mobile cinema, travelling along and together with this Ministry’s mobile library, played a significant role within the “analphabet” campaign and in the numerous activities for population’s general education.
The Ministry of Education overtook the work-field of the ASNOM’s Trustee Committee for Education. Namely, with a Law brought at the Third Convention of ASNOM, on April 16, 1945, during the activity of the First Macedonian Government, the Ministry of Education is being established, and for Minister, Nikola Minchev was appointed (because of the period that this text analyses, we’ll give the next information also: with the Decision by the ASNOM Presidium from August 6, 1944, Prof. Epaminonda Pop-Andonov is named for a Trustee for Education; later. with the Decision of the People’s Parliament of Macedonia of April 16, 1945 – for the First Minister for Education is named Nikola Minchev. After that, by the Decision of the People’s Parliament Presidium on June 2, 1947, for the Minister of Education is named Kiro Hadzi Vasilev, and finally, with the following Decision of the People’s Parliament on November 19, 1947, the new Minister of Education became Dimche Mire)(1). At the very start, the activities within this Ministry were organized through 4 Departments and their sub-departments: General sub-department, Schooling sub-department, Sub-department for General Population’s Education and Sub-department for Culture and Art. It’s important to note that within the frames of this Ministry, the Press, Radio and Film Department was also active, which activity interlaced with the work of the Sub-department for General Population’s Education and the Sub-department for Culture and Art. Of course, due time, this organizational scheme suffered many changes, reforms and improvements. With the Decision No. 5/6 on January 1, 1950 (Official Newspaper of NRM, No. 2/51) the Ministry of Education was canceled, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture was installed instead.
Further in this text, I’ll try to focus (with help of the available documentation) – briefly – on the most significant activities realized by the Ministry of Education at the field of cinematography. The tasks given to this Ministry were the following: spreading the cinema-network facilities through the country with equipping the educational institutions with 16mm ciné-projectors, training the cinema operators for those, investments in cinematography, etc., up to enterprising numerous campaigns by this cinema means. In that context, I focus on the “analphabet” campaign, and on the “general population education” campaign.
At the beginning of 1947, the Ministry of Education, in its annual report for 1946, among the other issues, includes the analyses about the cinema work in that year: until now, in Macedonia exist 19 permanent cinema-halls, and during 1946, there were 8.558 cinema projections with 1.825.884 visitors. 194 soviet films were shown, 54 domestic (journals and such) and 109 films from other national cinematographies. The Ministry of Education has its own mobile cinema, which realized 83 projections with 22.392 visitors. In this context, we’ll note the tasks that this Ministry realized in 1947 – the distributing of the Book of Regulations for Cinema Management prepared by the Cinematography Committee by the FNRJ Government (translated in Macedonian) and the distributing of the “Manual for maintaining the order and the hygiene in the cinemas”; and also, this Ministry enterprised an inspection upon all existing (permanent and mobile) cinemas in the country(2). A quite interesting information can be found in the daily newspaper “Nova Makedonija” from February 5, 1947 (page 2), in which is noted that the Ministry of Education gave a donation (a ciné-projector) to the Culture Dome in Debar, which equipping was finishing at the time, “… and because – soon – the electric energy will be installed in the town, the people of Debar are happy that they will be in possibility to go to the movies”. One of the questions now, is: where are from, these 35mm ciné-projectors? Obviously, at first, some kind of rearrangement was enterprised – among the already existing cinema facilities – from the ones with more ciné-projectors, to the ones with a lack of those. So, in that way, in the documentation we consulted, we found the written correspondence of this Ministry with the People’s Councils of Tetovo and Kriva Palanka for transferring a ciné-projector from Tetovo to Kriva Palanka(3). And what concerns the 16mm ciné-projectors, at the beginning – they were acquired as some kinds of grants and donations, so – in the report of this Ministry for 1946 – stands: “As a donation from Slovenia to our People’s Republic, the Ministry received 10 ciné-projectors for 16mm mute films. These ciné-projectors are already distributed in ten separate high schools through the Republic”(4). Another interesting aspect can be noted if one takes a look onto the ambitious five-year plan (1947-1951), which, for the cinema development, suggests the Press, Radio and Film Department to be in charge, and after that, it becomes a part of the whole “Five-year Development Program” of the Ministry of Education. In the period since 1947 until 1951, according by the Press, Radio and Film Department, what’s necessary, is: “to require cinema equipment for 70 of the larger central towns and settlements, from which – 20 are to be with their own independent electric supplies (with aggregates) for the settlements that aren’t electrified or won’t be within this five-year period; 15 district educational departments to be acquired with the ciné-projectors for 16mm film; the elementary and high schools to be equipped with 20 ciné-projectors for 16mm. (mute) film for educational purposes; 10 high and basic schools to be equipped with projectors for educational purposes; 70 ciné-operators and 70 managers to be trained by special courses for those cinemas”(5). Of course, all this planned with the required annual dynamics. For fulfilling this five-year planned goals, the Ministry of Education makes the five-year investment plan in which they anticipate: “… for the cinematography purposes in this period, 82.000 Dinars are supposed to be needed, from which, 59.000 Dinars for construction works, and 23.000 Dinars for equipment”(6). In the details on this investment plan notes the necessity that for the People’s Company for Film Distribution (which, at that moment was placed in a private building in the Skopje town’s center) should be built a new building with the special bunker for film-storing and safe-keeping, as well as the building of the laboratory for developing of the films and a studio for making films, because “the conditions for producing films are available at the moment. Basically, at the beginning, the producing of monthly journals, short cultural and propaganda films should be enterprised, and later, the producing of documentary and artistic and feature films would follow”(7). What concerns “the cinéfication”, with this five-year plan, the building and equipping of 39 ciné-halls are being anticipated. That the Ministry of Education intensively and thoroughly followed and encouraged the cinematography activities country wide, clearly speaks the fact that in 1948, this Ministry did reward few artists – culture-activist and film-workers from People’s Republic of Macedonia, for their especial contributions within their fields of work and interests – among which is Kole Čašule, the one who did the “script and the editing of the propaganda film TO ELECTIONS FOR NEW VICTORIES (NA IZBORI ZA NOVI POBEDI)”(8).
It’s understandable that this engagement of the Ministry of Education at the field of cinema development within the country should be observed through the context of the general engagement in the society enterprises in whole – of the new Government, of course, as for instance, the activities of the Cinematography Department, the Ministry of Trade and Supplies, the Cinematography Committee, etc.), but we’re going to leave that kind of analyses for some other occasion. In this moment, the pointing at this Ministry’s other engagements are only an introduction at the detecting of this Ministry’s mobile cinema activities.
About the dozen of bibliography units on this Ministry’s mobile cinema within the period from 1944 until 1950, all together, was a challenge enough for us to start the quest for revealing its activities. What’s even more, that its travelling “Odyssey” was accompanied by the “camera-eye” of Trajche Popov, as I already mentioned before, in the film THROUGH PIRIN MACEDONIA (NIZ PIRINSKA MAKEDONIJA), in 1948.
The first information we got on this mobile cinema was in the ASNOM Presidium’ documentation. Namely, in December, 1944, the ASNOM’s Trustee Committee for Finances gets the letter from Ruse Slavejkov, a member of AGITPROP in the Macedonian Liberation Brigade “Goce Delčev”, in which he informs that from the Red Army’s Headquarters (placed in Sofia) succeeded to get a mobile cinema as a gift for the Macedonian Republic (used one, of course). In the letter, he describes the details for this Russian gift for Macedonia: “One mobile ciné-truck with one spare (inner and outer) tire, one aggregate of 3 kilowatts, one 35mm ciné-projector ‘Super Imperial’, one speaker and one amplifier, one projector-transformator, film-winding machine, one cultural film in one reel, one projection screen, two empty reels for winding of films, 50 meters of rubber cable for the aggregate and a special glue for mending the films”. There also stands that the most of the equipment is at the Red Army’s military factory in Sophia for reparation and that in the beginning of 1945 the whole shipment would be available to Federal Republic of Macedonia(9). In the same letter, Slavejkov reports that together with all of the other equipment, he got the Soviet long-length documentary film PEOPLE’S AVENGERS (the film is shown in Macedonia – right away – in December, and we also found the review for it in Nova Makedonija written by Andja Dzhuvalekovska, from December 5, 1944/1, No.7, page 4.). The Trustee Committee for Finances sends (further) this correspondence letter the Trustee Committee for Education and at the end of January 1945, Ljuben Lape (Assistant-trustee for People’s Education), Ruse Slavejkov and the chauffeur Kiril Atevski leave for Sophia to pick up the rest of the equipment for the mobile cinema together with some additional technical accessories (radios, gramophones, etc.)(10). Kiril Atevski, in February goes again in Sophia, to pick up the truck from the Red Army’s Military factory(11).
In 1945, and in the next few years, the campaign for general population’s education and the anti-analphabet campaign got widespread within the country. For the requirements of the analphabet campaign, the Ministry of Education got made numerous propaganda film slides, which were later shown in the permanent and mobile cinemas. For this Ministry’s requirements, during 1946, two more projectors are acquired, but we still don’t know where from. In the Ministry’s Annual Report for 1946, especially for the third three-month period of that year, an information can be found that only one from the three existing ciné-projectors is fit for work, and the other two were out of order because of the lack of adequate lamps for them(12). In this context, it’s interesting is to quote the parts of the document named as “The Tasks of the Department for People’s Education that should be done by the 3rd, and by the 10th of December, 1946”: “… Blagoja Drnkov is bound to mend the two projectors … and … to require films for public showing”(13).
The preparing activities in the Ministry of Education for activating of the mobile cinema gave the first positive results in 1947. Namely, in this period (1947 and later), an incredibly intensive activity of this mobile cinema can be registered. It’s very important to note that this Mobile Cinema makes its touring through Macedonia, largely, together with the Mobile Library of the same Ministry. For instance these two mobile (let’s say) institutions visited Pirin Macedonia during September 1947, the same occasion when the materials for the film THROUGH PIRIN MACEDONIA, which will be finished in 1948. It’s interesting to note that in the Investment plan of the Ministry of Education for 1947 – the Ministry plans to acquire additional 5 mobile ciné-projectors, together with the transport vehicles, and anticipated the 3.000 Dinars costs for this purpose(14).
In 1947, the Press, Radio and Film Sub-department and the Sub-department for Libraries, in collaboration with the Sub-department for General Population’s Education, made a precise monthly plans for this mobile cinema’s and mobile library’s tours through Macedonia. In this plan, many smaller settlements and locations are being anticipated for film showing. For instance – in January, a significant number of the villages in Skopje area are supposed to be visited, then in February – a large part of Bitola and a part of the Maleševo area, in March – the Povardarie area, then many settlements in West Macedonia, etc(15). By the annual reports of the Ministry of Education, in the first three-month period (January-March) from 1947, the mobile cinema toured 21 settlements and other inhabited areas, where 36 film projections are realized with 12.023 viewers, and in the second three-month period (April-June) 16 inhabited area are being visited, with 18 realized with 6.203 viewers(16). The Press, and the Radio, of course, regularly followed the activities of the mobile cinema and library tours. Here we’ll make a short review on the chronology and contents of those bibliography units. Nova Makedonija, on March 4, 1947, on page 5, printed the information (text) named as “The Mobile Cinema and the Book Collection tour Macedonia in occasion of the Women Holiday 8th of March”, in which is noted that the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the Main Board of WAF (Women’s Anti-fascist Front), organizes film projections and book exhibitions in Kriva Palanka, Kratovo, Sveti Nikole, Carevo Selo (now Delčevo), Pehčevo, Berovo, Radoviš, Negotino, Valandovo, Gevgelija and Dojran. According to this information, these activities on occasion for the 8th of March were in the period from February 22, until March 6. Often, on the audience’s request, there were more than one shows. The information ends with these words: “… the WAF activists explicate the film contents”. Little later, again Nova Makedonija (April 11, 1947, page 5) printed the information that the mobile cinema and library were to the Debar area and that in Zhirovnica two film projections were shown. Most probably that after this, the mobile “caravan” visited the Gostivar area, because, again in Nova Macedonia from April 26, 1947, on page 4, says that on April 21 – the mobile cinema and library by the Ministry of Education arrived in Tetovo area after the touring the Debar and Gostivar districts. But, according to this press article, in the district of Tetovo, “only two projections were made…”. After that, the cinema went to Tetovo because of some malfunction”. The newspaper Prosvetno delo from May 7, 1947, makes a certain news recapitulation on those activities in the period January-March, with a conclusion that “With the fulfilling of the three-month plan, the Ministry’s mobile cinema, until April 1, toured 14 villages and 11 towns “ (Madzari, Drachevo, Lisiche, Petrovec, Katlanovo, Stajkovci, Singelich, Porodin, Velushina, Bareshani, Bistrica etc.). In this text, the number of the audience is noted as well, so: “… in the village of Madzari two shows were shown in front of 250 viewers. In the village of Petrovec were also given two shows…”, while in the Bitola district villages, the projections were visited by 1400 of audience, in Berovo there were more than 1.300 visitors, and in Gevgelija, Sveti Nikole and Pehčevo more than 1.000 viewers were registered. In this text in Prosvetno delo (and only here) the titles of the films shown by the mobile cinema in the first half of 1947. Those are the Soviet feature films: DAYS AND NIGHTS, THE SHEPHERD AND THE PIG-KEEPER GIRL and KOSTJA THE SHEPHERD. A significant number of journals of Soviet and Yugoslav production were shown, also. But already, at the autumn campaign, the repertoire of the mobile cinema is quite different. In Nova Makedonija from October 28, 1947, in the review named as “During last month, the mobile library and cinema of the Ministry of Education toured the East Macedonia”, is noted that the Soviet feature films TADZIKISTAN and THE LAST TRIBE, as well as the journal PEOPLE’S VICTORY and, what’s of the most importance for us, the propaganda film GRAINS FOR THE PEOPLE (ZHITO ZA NAROD, by Trajche Popov). This was the first press release for this film, the one of the first-borns (together with TO ELECTIONS FOR NEW VICTORIES by Blagoja Drnkov) of the Macedonian post-war (institutionalized) film production. Although, the tour of East Macedonia followed the tour through Pirin Macedonia. The visited areas were those of Shtip, Radoviš, Negotino, Vinica, Zletovo, etc. All together, 15 towns, villages and settlements, with more than 40.000 of audience. In that way, the review ends with the conclusion that “… these numbers show that the interest and love of the general population towards its education is great, and that there are firm foundations for the cultural progress of our labor masses”.
In 1948 and 1949, the mobile cinema of the Ministry of Education was mostly engaged in the propaganda and analphabet campaigns, but also, thee was room for its regular tours through the local settlements, with a purpose of spreading the film culture and art as an entertainment and wider enlightenment of the people. So, in this context, we’ll note the fact that in the first three-month period of 1948, this cinema visited 16 settlements in Bitola, Prilep, Veles and Radoviš area, with 49 shows and i front of 8.071 of audience. The Soviet films TADZIKISTAN, PETAR THE GREAT and WE FROM KRONSHTAD (17). It’s important to note the fact that the Ministry of Education, in its project for 1949 anticipates 100.000 Dinars for acquiring of a mobile projector for the best of the numerous Culture and Education Alliances in the country, according by their contribution to the analphabet and education campaigns (18).
The next year, in 1950, this Ministry’s mobile cinema was engaged in the analphabet campaigns. But the most important activities of that year were within the frames of The Week of the People’s Culture hold between July 2 and July 9, 1950. So, during July, the mobile cinema toured 15 villages from the Tetovo area. ”… The audience at this film projections is huge…”, claimed the newspapers reports in Nova Makedonija (July 26, 1950, page 2) and Shar (July 21, 1950, page 3).
With the reorganization of the Ministry of Education in 1950, its mobile cinema’s activities are overtaken by other specialized organizations. The last information about it that can be found in the press-releases, dates from September 23, 1950, in Nova Makedonija, on the second page of the newspaper that day, reports that this Ministry’s mobile cinema, in collaboration with the Film Company – Skopje, visited the labor communities in the villages in Strumica district (Vasilevo, Gradoshorci, Bosilovo, Turnovo, Novo Selo, etc.), and showed the films: FLAG (Yugoslavian feature film), the documentary YUGOSLAVIAN FOLK DANCES and the Journal No.14 manufactured and produced by “Vardar film”.
Finishing this text, I’ll mention that the mobile cinema of the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of Macedonia, in those first post-war years, had a large and significant role in the spreading and development of cinema culture within the country. And in spite of the inevitable mixed propaganda within, and the obligatory ideological determination, it was – still – an attraction of a kind, let’s say, that in a villages like Zhirovnica, Gradoshor, Velushina, etc., the bright beam of cinema light could’ve been seen, as well as the film magic on the film screen, at that time. And that’s why, and in spite of the propaganda and the dominating ideology character of the shown films (mostly), the people of Macedonia also could see THE SHEPHERD KOSTJA and PETAR THE GREAT (and those are, still, anthology films of the Soviet film era).
(1) First People’s Government of Macedonia, tom 2, book 1, Archive of Macedonia, Skopje, 1995
(2) Archive of Macedonia, Fond: Ministry of Education of NRM, 170.33.4/235 and 170.5.3/33
(3) AM, FMP, 170.35.6/114 and 170.34.44/165
(4) AM, FMP, 170.5.22/354
(5) AM, FMP, 170.34.44/173-174
(6) AM, FMP, 170.22.17/68 i 71
(7) AM, FMP, 170.22.17/81
(8) Nova Makedonija, 26.03.1948/5, No. 997, page 2
(9) AM, Fond: ASNOM Presidium, 157.11.14/20-22
(10) AM, FPA, 157.9.61/334
(11) AM, FPA, 157.11.19/93
(12) AM, Fond: Ministry of Education of NRM, 170.5.22/354 and 170.35.6/119
(13) AM, FMP, 170.34.44/166 and 167
(14) AM, FMP, 170.22.18/144
(15) AM, FMP, 170.34.44/183-196 and 170.5.3/45-47
(16) AM, FMP, 170.5.29/432 and 444
(17) AM, FMP, 170.35.5/69 and Nova Makedonija from March 28, 1948/page 6
(18) AM, FMP, 170.34.44/245
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski