phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
FILM REVIEW: Tracking Edith - A Spy with A Conscience

FILM REVIEW: Tracking Edith - A Spy with A Conscience

10 August 2018 | Jade Jenkinson

Born in Vienna 1908, Edith Tudor-Hart (née Suschitzky) began her career as a kindergarten teacher and in the course of her life took on roles including Bauhaus student, mother, KGB spy and antique dealer. However, she is probably best known for her photographic work. Tracking Edith sees Peter Stephan Jungk follow his great aunt’s extraordinary life and, along the way, stumble into some of the most important events of the twentieth century.

Every family has its secrets, yet Edith’s was perhaps more sinister than most. In the documentary, Jungk uncovers that in working for the NKVD (later KGB), the Soviet intelligence service, Edith played a leading role in recruiting the infamous Kim Philby, a long-serving member of the British intelligence turned Soviet spy. She is also named the ‘matriarch’ of spy ring, the Cambridge Five, a group of senior British officials who did irreparable damage in passing information to the KGB during WW2 and at the early stages of the Cold War. Edith was therefore fundamental to the Soviet Union’s infiltration of the British Government.

Image Credit:

At the same time, Edith also produced some of the most startling and personal photographs depicting inequality, protest and unrest in both Britain and Vienna. Her medium-format camera, a model that was held at hip height, allowed her to look down the lens from above and therefore generate a more intimate relationship with her subjects. The documentary displays a range of Edith’s work: from her early pictures of ‘red Vienna’ in which working-class families experienced widespread deprivation in the 1930’s, to the shocking conditions in the London slums and the hunger and protest which marked the occupants of Welsh mining settlement Rhondda Valley, a place she lived for a time with her (then) husband Alex Tudor-Hart. The emotional intensity of Edith’s lens is depicted in works such Child Staring into a Bakery Window, Whitechapel, 1935 and Family Group, Stepney, London, 1932. Here, her pictures are stark and unpretentious, with a bold sense of truth that situates them within the documentary genre; yet unlike the press photography of the time, there is an empathetic and sensitive quality to her work that places it within a league of its own.

Tracking Edith brings together the photographer and the spy, displaying above all, Edith’s ideological commitment to socialism and belief in equality, fraternity, and internationalism, despite its widescale misuse and the hypocrisy prevalent in the Soviet regime.

Image Credit:

Towards the end of her career, her pictures in the book Moving and Growing, published by the Ministry of Education in the 1950’s, display a move away from social critique and are among the most beautiful in her oeuvre. At a time in which she was experiencing many personal troubles, due to her son’s deteriorating state and being questioned incessantly by MI5, they express a sense of hope in the healthy, happy children she portrays with so delicate a touch.

Although Edith’s work has been brought to public recognition in the 2003 exhibition In the Shadow of Tyranny at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the documentary, populated by relatives, family photographs and short animation sequences, gives a more personal, intimate viewpoint into Edith’s life. It is a portrait of a woman who remained in the shadows for so long.

Image Credit:

The work is thoroughly researched and contains many important interviews with ex-KGB officers and her brother, Wolfgang Suschitzky, a famous cinematographer in his own right. The many twists and turns of Edith’s life and the sheer scope of information provided may prove heavy watching for some viewers. Those more interested in in Edith’s artistic oeuvre may be disappointed with the substantial focus on her espionage activities and the foray into the world of the KGB archives, secrets, and conspiracies. That is not to say that the story is not intriguing and finely wrought: with tragedy and bathos, art, politics, and bravery, in an increasingly dark and unstable modern world.

Image Credit:

Tracking Edith, uncovers a picture of a woman who survived war, family, and political tragedy and who understood, above all, the power of the photograph to enact change and to tell a story, long after the photographer had faded.

Tracking Edith is being screened at various cinemas across the country including at HOME, Manchester (10-16 August), The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington (13 & 21 August), Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds (14 August), Depot Cinema & More, Lewes (17 - 23 August), GFT, Glasgow (21-23 August), DCA Dundee (28 August), ARC, Stockton on Tees (3 September), Firstsite Gallery, Colchester (15 September), Broadway Cinema, Nottingham (24 September) and The Poly, Falmouth (25 September).
 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

The Best Winter Pop Up Film Screenings 2017

The Best Winter Pop Up Film Screenings 2017

Binge-watching festive films one after another, curled up inside, is one of the best parts of the holiday season. However, for the ultimate festive experience don’t…

A Journey of Self-Discovery: An Interview with Filmmaker Arshad Khan

A Journey of Self-Discovery: An Interview with Filmmaker Arshad Khan

A deeply personal documentary, ‘ABU’ traces filmmaker Arshad Khan’s journey as a gay man, an unwelcome immigrant and a Pakistani Muslim. 'ABU' - father in Urdu – is…

FILM REVIEW: Mad to Be Normal

FILM REVIEW: Mad to Be Normal

It’s always tricky to address certain topics in a motion picture. Psychiatry is certainly one of them, with its painful, subtle shades, so problematic to capture…

The Big Screen and The Big City: An Interview with Cara Delevingne

The Big Screen and The Big City: An Interview with Cara Delevingne

This summer, Cara Delevingne wowed in her first leading role in a blockbuster, as Laureline in Luc Besson’s sci-fi banquet Valerian and the City of a…

The Best Festive Events in Bath 2017

The Best Festive Events in Bath 2017

Bath comes alive during the holiday season with plenty of festive events held across the city. From the famous Christmas Market to concerts and wreath…

Win an Open Air Cinema Experience with Popcorn and Prosecco!

Virgin Experience Days - Win an Open Air Cinema Experience with Popcorn and Prosecco!

We're offering a lucky Culture Calling reader the chance to swap their next friendly film night for something a bit more epic, with a trip...

The Best Festive Fun in Bristol this Winter

The Best Festive Fun in Bristol this Winter

With Christmas suddenly around the corner, and the weather having long since taken a turn for the worse, it’s high time to be looking ahead with…

A Guide to Valentine’s Day in Manchester 2018

A Guide to Valentine’s Day in Manchester 2018

Whether you think it’s the most romantic day of the year or a totally fabricated holiday spurred on by greetings card companies, Valentine’s Day is nearly…

14-18 NOW Programme Announcement 2018

14-18 NOW Programme Announcement 2018

14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts organisation which was set up to bring a creative response to the centenary of the First World War, have announced their…

A Sherlock Holmes Lover’s Sight-Seeing Guide

A Sherlock Holmes Lover’s Sight-Seeing Guide

For lovers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated detective series, finding places to visit to feed your obsession is not a three pipe problem. 22 May is…

Most popular

A Guide to Summer Films

A Guide to Summer Films

As the heat wave ranges on, spend a bit of time indoors with these hot films!
Win an Open Air Cinema Experience with Popcorn and Prosecco!

Virgin Experience Days - Win an Open Air Cinema Experience with Popcorn and Prosecco!

We're offering a lucky Culture Calling reader the chance to swap their next friendly film night for something a bit more epic, with a trip to a stunning open-air cinematic venue to enjoy a classic film and some bubbles under the evening sky!
Win a visit to Bletchley Park for two!

Virgin Experience Days - Win a visit to Bletchley Park for two!

Win a trip to the fascinating Bletchley Park, to get an insight into the once top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers.
Bird is the Word: The UK’s Best Birdwatching Spots

Bird is the Word: The UK’s Best Birdwatching Spots

From flamingos to ospreys, puffins to swans, there’s plenty of species of winged wildlife for hawk-eyed birdwatchers to see in UK!
Top 5 UK Lidos and Outdoor Pools

Top 5 UK Lidos and Outdoor Pools

With summer in full swing, we’ve rounded up Britain’s best pools for a spot of outdoor swimming!
Do It for the Gram: An Interview with Will Bower

Do It for the Gram: An Interview with Will Bower

We caught up Will Bower, Managing Director of the Selfie Factory, ahead of the launch of the UK’s first made for Instagram exhibition in Brighton. We discussed his inspirations, escapism, and how selfies may be able to promote confidence and happiness.
Spotlight On: The Whitworth, Manchester

Spotlight On: The Whitworth, Manchester

Discover Mancheser's "gallery in the park"!
FILM REVIEW: Mad to Be Normal

FILM REVIEW: Mad to Be Normal

Mad to Be Normal, the biopic focused on the radical and innovative psychiatric treatments conducted by Dr. Ronald David Laing, will be released on VOD channels on 13 August!
The Original Mail-Order Bride!

The Original Mail-Order Bride!

Learn about the intense orchestration and political manoeuvring behind King Henry VIII marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, in a new play “The Court Must Have a Queen” performed at Hampton Court Palace over the summer!
BOOK CLUB: The Best Books to take on your Summer Holidays

BOOK CLUB: The Best Books to take on your Summer Holidays

You've booked your flights, bought a bikini, but have you picked your all important summer read? If not, don't panic! From dystopian thrillers to romantic novellas, we've rounded up the best books to read on your summer holidays!

Your inbox deserves a little culture!