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Soviet Toys is the only animated film by Dziga Vertov that survives in its entirety. Vertov used a combination of stop-motion animation techniques and employed a style reminiscent of Soviet political cartoons. Soviet Toys presents a critique of the New Economic Policy (NEP) enacted in 1921, with the aim of bolstering the Soviet economy by allowing some private ventures. The figures symbolize different groups in Soviet society. For example, the NEP Man, portrayed as a glutton, represents those who disproportionately benefited from the NEP at the expense of the working class.
Born in 1896 in Bialystok, Poland, Dziga Vertov moved with his family to Moscow in 1915. He became an avant-garde filmmaker and cinema theorist primarily known for his documentaries on Soviet life in the 1920s and early ’30s. Vertov valued the camera over the human eye for its ability to objectively capture reality, leading a group of filmmakers called the Kinoki (the Film-Eye Group) in an effort to challenge theatricalism in film. He ventured into animation with films such as the political cartoon Soviet Toys, originally shown in conjunction with Vertov’s newsreels. Vertov’s animated work, truncated by the rise of Social Realism in 1934, is often overlooked in accounts of his career. He died in 1954.