Fish Factory in Astrakhan (1908)

by popegrutch

Fish Factory in Astrakhan

Alternate Title: Zavod rybnykh konservov v Astrakhani

I’m not quite certain whether to label this as a “Russian” or “French” movie. It was made by Pathé in the Russian Empire, and presumably distributed throughout Europe and the US. It would have served as a kind of travel movie, shown to audiences eager to see “exotic” faraway places depicted on their domestic screens. However, there’s a good chance it was shown in the Russian interior as well, where there would be many citizens for whom Astrakhan was nearly as exotic as it seemed in Paris. The movie was found in a Russian archive, where it had been restored, and Russian subtitles added, by a film student in the 1950s. One source I’ve found says it was likely shot by Aleksandr Drankov, which, if true, makes me think it’s pretty Russian, whoever he was working for.

What we actually see is a series of shots taken at an actual fish processing center on the Volga. The fish are delivered, cleaned, salted and shipped out, and we also see the workers during their lunch break. The emphasis on workers may help explain why a Soviet archive felt it was worth preserving. They actually seem pretty happy, for an oppressed working class, and frequently turn and smile to the camera (on the other hand, the presence of the film crew may have been an excuse to slack off). Nearly all the workers we see are women, except for a few men who steer the rafts that are used to deliver the fish. Most of the work is done by hand in a very inefficient and un-ergonomic manner. I have to wonder how long the backs of these workers held up to this kind of treatment. For us today, it no doubt remains an opportunity to indulge in travel to an “exotic” distance in both time and space.

Director: Unknown (see above)

Run Time: 6 Min, 30 seconds

You can watch it for free: here.