Opening in Moscow (1959)

Director: D.A. Pennebaker

Opening in Moscow is about the 1959 American Exhibition in the USSR.  The event was meant to spread the US capitalist perspective in the Soviet Union, but the documentary provides some interesting insight into the response by some of the attendees of the exhibition.  The reactions of the attendees, as well as focusing on contrasting the exhibition itself with normal life in Moscow are the focus of the film.

The every day shots of Moscow are interesting by themselves, as they serve as a simple portrayal of the late 1950s USSR in a way that is not trying to demonize it.  This normalcy that is demonstrated is perhaps meant to be a shock to the American audience, a sort of “look how the Soviet citizens actually have lives apart from political repression” kind of attitude.  Of course, the idea that this should come as a shock is itself problematic and demonstrates a level of propaganda and misconception about the Soviet Union, especially during the period this documentary was made.

Overall the documentary is an interesting inquiry into the differences between the USSR and USA.

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Documentary a Day: Cuba! Africa! Revolution! (2007)

Director: Jihan El Tahri’

Also known as “Cuba, an African Odyssey”

This documentary offers an excellent account of Cuban involvement in Africa.  The documentary accounts for a long period in this “Chapter of Cold War history” (thus is too much to sum up in one post here).  The documentary is in two parts and covers the time from when Che first went to Africa to help with the conflict in the Congo all the way until the fall of Apartheid.

(Image from Wikipedia)

The documentary also does an excellent job at contextualizing Cuba’s involvement as an anti-imperialist endeavor.  It is very sympathetic and honest about the fact that Cuba was instrumental in ending colonialism in Africa (especially via Cuba’s invovlement in Angola) .  It’s hard to explore this topic and not come to the conclusion that Cuba’s involvement in Africa was anything but liberating to the people of Africa.

The most interesting thing about the documentary is its account for the relationship between the USSR and Cuba in the context of involvement in Africa.  The documentary portrays the USSR as not really wanting to get too involved in Africa for various diplomatic reasons, yet Cuba was the driving force here.  Cuba was acting independently and even trying to use its relationship with the USSR to help liberate Africa from colonialism by playing cold war politics very intelligently.  This certainly dispells the myth of “all allies of the USSR just took dictates from Moscow” as Cuba, in this case, was the real driving force.

I highly recommend this documentary to those interested in Cuba and anti-imperialist struggles in general.

Further Reading:

Africans call for BBC to screen “Cuba! Africa! Revolution!”

(Edit: the original publishing of this I was under the impression that this was a BBC documentary, which it is not.  I have edited the post to reflect this)