Red Africa 2022
Distributed by Grasshopper Film, 12 East 32nd St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016
Produced by Stan Poplavskii, Ansgar Schaefer, and Rui Ribeiro
Directed by Alexander Markov
Streaming, 65 mins
International Relations; Soviet History
Date Entered: 12/15/2023Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie
Red Africa is a movie constructed of archival footage shot by Soviet film crews from 1957 through 1991. Most of the film demonstrates propaganda geared toward newly decolonized African nations. Viewers will see Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev touring various African nations, embracing their leaders and admiring their people and land. Other clips capture African people marveling at Soviet consumer and industrial goods. The superiority of the Soviet chainsaw to the traditional African axe for felling trees seem to have been a big selling point. Other scenes show throngs of citizens greeting these African leaders on their visits to the Soviet Union (including Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie). The film eventually shifts to showing dignitaries at Brezhnev’s funeral, followed by footage of protests and riots against the Soviet state and the collapse of that nation. The viewer is not so subtly shown that while the Soviet leadership was showing a vision of utopia abroad, there was very much a rot beneath the surface.
The archival footage provides fascinating glimpses into how the Soviet Union portrayed itself to the wider world, particularly in emerging nations it was hoping to influence. However Red Africa falls short as an educational piece because it relies on these Soviet films alone, giving no background or context to what the viewer is seeing. These archival films cannot simply speak for themselves, particularly given a topic this complicated. Had the film gone a more traditional route, interspersing interviews with experts on the topic and using voiceover, Red Africa would have been much more valuable .
Red Africa is ONLY recommended for courses relating to the Cold War and the use of soft power. In those courses the instructor can provide the proper context for the activities shown in the film.
Awards: Best editing - doker, young jury prize - archivo aperto
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