A documentary that covers the work of Soviet film crews in Africa, from 1960 to 1990, identifying and undermining their perspective, or their bluff, when it comes to the recurring themes and motifs of propaganda associated with this continent.
After gaining independence in the early 1960s, the young African nations are greeted by an unexpected and enigmatic friend from a far-off continent. Soviet parliamentarians arrive in an endless stream, paying visits to Africa’s new leaders. These ambassadors of the nation with a ‘bright future’ radiate friendliness and offer assistance in technical, social and cultural development under the banner of a new ideology of equality and fraternity.
But is everything as carefree as the Soviet propaganda claims? What were the real objectives of the Red Empire?
Several years ago, I visited a Russian film archive where I found a number of reels produced in Africa during the Cold War by order of the Soviet Union. The footage revealed a prototype version of the Soviet paradise in Africa. The Soviet Union, however, collapsed in the early 90s – did it really spend thirty years building a twin version of itself on the African continent (1960–1990)? I was in a state of disbelief when I saw the footage, which showed Africans building their ‘bright future’ under the supervision of Soviet specialists. I sat down at the editing table, putting the first African presidents alongside Soviet export goods, and juxtaposing a rocket bearing the ever-smiling expression of Yuri Gagarin with the many busts of Lenin that decked the offices of Soviet leaders, a wise and cautious expression on his face. These images surrounded me since childhood, and still do now: many streets in Russian towns and villages bear the name of Lenin to this day. For some reason, nobody ever questions this. While immersed in the footage shot by Soviet filmmakers in Africa, I suddenly asked myself: why does all this familiar scenery look so staged and contrived after being transferred, unchanged, to foreign soil.
Alexander Markov is a documentary filmmaker, cinema historian and artist.
Born in Leningrad, Russia at January 28, 1973.
He directs films in Saint Petersburg and abroad, teaches documentary directing at Saint Petersburg State Institute of Film and Television, and works as an independent curator. His video installations were shown at Sharjah Biennial, Calvert 22, Iwalewahaus, Africa.Cont, CEU etc. Markov's films were participated and awarded prizes at various international film festivals like Berlinale Talents, Visions Du Reel, DocPoint, Sheffield Doc, Film Africa, Message To Man, NYAFF, Artdocfest, Cinefest, Directors Lounge, Stalker, Temps De Images and others.