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.
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.
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?