Work

 Our Africa
(2018) on IMDb

synopsis

1960. The USSR starts humanitarian aid programs based on Marxist ideology in several newly independent African countries. For more than 35 years the Soviets expand their influence in Africa. Soviet filmmakers are sent to document the glorious advance of socialism on the entire continent. After the fall of the Soviet Empire Russia lost political interest in Africa, but thousands of kilometers of footage shot on African soil remain. With the help of newsreels from those days, “Our Africa” will recreate the time of the “Great Utopia” and reveal the mechanisms behind the creation of propaganda films.

the director

Alexander Markov is a documentary filmmaker, cinema historian and artist.
He directs films in St. Petersburg and abroad, teaches documentary directing at the St. Petersburg State Institute of Film and Television, and works as an independent curator. His video installations have been shown at the Sharjah Biennial, Calvert 22, Iwalewahaus, Africa.Cont, CEU etc. Markov’s films have been awarded prizes at various international film festivals: Berlinale Talents, Visions Du Reel, DocPoint, Sheffield Doc, Film Africa, Message To Man, NYAFF, Artdocfest, Cinefest, Directors Lounge, Stalker, Temps d’images and others.

Alexander-Markov_directors-pic-2_447x500

Alexander Markov

Director

subject / background

Winter 2007. In one of Russia’s state film archives I discover a forgotten treasure: literally thousands of kilometres of film reels shot by Soviet filmmakers in Africa during the cold war. I spent as much time as I possibly could in the archives, viewing endless hours of film, studying the catalogues and the editing log sheets. The footage tells the story of African Independence from a socialist point of view and documents the Soviet efforts to support the newly independent countries on their “glorious path” to socialism between 1953 and 1991. I remember these films from my own childhood – exotic newsreels about strange foreign lands, shown in cinemas before the main film started. I used to love them as a child – I guess we all did. For a Soviet citizen they offered a rare glimpse behind the Iron Curtain. Today I ask myself: why were these films made and by whom? What did the Soviet Union expect to gain from Africa?

visual style

This film is based on archive images shot by Soviet filmmakers in Africa. Archival images, shot by Soviet cinematographers in Africa are at the basis of this film. The visual quality of this color footage is absolutely stunning. We will immerse ourselves in those images and change their narrative. The audio level of the archival footage is also of the utmost importance. By cutting out the Soviet voiceovers in some places but leaving them in others, the sound design will create a striking experience of what propaganda feels like. The final soundtrack will consist partly of the original Soviet sound and music, combined with new music and Foleys.

Work

director’s statement

Soviet documentary films should be treated like advertisements. You should not let yourself be seduced by them, although it is quite difficult to resist their graceful structures. They seem to be dripping with honey, especially those from the 1960s. They are so easy to edit: each shot jibes nicely with the next. They remind me of an ideal puzzle, which can be put together in any way you like. Pleasing everyone was a the main trait of the “high” Soviet style. Soviet documentary films broadcast their own version of how African countries gained their independence. This is a peculiar world to which we must find the key and gain the access code. I have realized that the notion of “Soviet Africa” should not be taken literally. There is no pure viewpoint: it is always muddled. Are there ways to clarify it? The image is constantly accompanied by commentary, which gives us no space and peace to examine everything with our own eyes. I want to liberate independent Africa from the Soviet viewpoint. At first glance, it seems like an impossible dream. However, liberating independent Africa from Soviet ideology sounds is a tempting proposition.

main protagonists

There are three groups of main and secondary characters in Our Africa.
The first group includes the three most important post-Stalin General Secretaries of the Soviet Communist Party—Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Their visits to Africa, their meetings with African leaders and the speeches they made are vital for understanding Soviet strategy in Africa.

African leaders form the second group.
Many of them are featured in the film, and their importance for Soviet policy makers and filmmakers changed over the decades.
Ahmed Sékou Touré (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Ahmed Ben Bella (Algeria), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Haile Selassie (Ethiopia), and Luís Cabral (Guinea-Bissau) are the stars of the 1960s. The films of the 1970s are dominated by Agostinho Neto (Angola), Samora Machel (Mozambique), Jean-Bédel Bokassa (Central African Republic), and Muammar Gadaffi (Libya), while José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola), Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), and Sam Nujoma (Namibia) were featured in the 1980s.

The third group of characters include African students in the USSR & Soviet specialists in African countries.

crew

Scriptwriter & Director by Alexander MARKOV
Editors Svetlana PECHENYKH and Vladimir PIVNEV
Production Manager Victoria RUBAN
English translation Thomas CAMPBELL
Sound Director Sergey MOSHKOV
Musicians Vladimir BELOV and Anton NAZARKO
Music Victor SOLOGUB
Producers Alexander MARKOV, Alexey TELNOV and Stanislav POPLAVSKII
Graphics & Design Nick TEPLOV
Colorist Soma …

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Our Africa

By SDF & Ukulele Film

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