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Film Of The Week Tracking down the perfect Soviet spy

MARIA DUARTE sees a gripping documentary on Edith Tudor-Hart, whose espionage activities went under the radar of Britain's security forces for decades

Tracking Edith (PG)
Directed by Peter Stephan Jungk

 

IN TRACKING Edith, film-maker Peter Stephan Jungk embarks on one of the most fascinating of fact-finding missions to discover the truth about his great aunt, a prolific Austrian-British photographer who led a double life as a secret KGB agent and whose story reads like a John Le Carre novel.

 

The film reveals how Edith Tudor-Hart, born Edith Suschitzky, a staunch communist until the day she died, was the linchpin in the creation of the “Cambridge Five.” She introduced Kim Philby to her Russian handler and former lover in London's Regent's Park and, without her, Russia's most successful spy ring would never have been born. Guy Burgess described her as “the grandmother of us all.”

 

Based on Jungk's biography of his great aunt, the writer-director talks to military historians, photo archivists and ex-KGB officers as well as friends and family members in his quest to comprehend how Edith turned from kindergarten teacher to photographer to spy. Her dark secret only surfaced 20 years after her death in 1973.

 

The narrative is broken up with black and white animated sequences recreating key historical moments, as well as Edith's bleak and haunting photographs capturing the misery and social unrest of the 1930s in Vienna and London. It made her one of the most important protagonists of British social photography of that decade and her camera became her weapon in the fight against the world's injustices.

 

One former KGB officer reveals how the idealistic Tudor-Hart was never paid for her services by the Soviet Union and was never awarded the recognition she deserved.

 

Jungk delivers a gripping and eye-opening documentary about a smart and talented woman who, though having never having gone to Russia, had been a major figure in the Soviet intelligence services network in London according to secret KGB archives.

 

A former member of the Soviet secret service claims that, unlike the Bond films, real espionage is boring, but, as this documentary shows, in the case of Edith Tudor-Hart it was anything but that.

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