FORUM FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND CULTURE

ANTROPOLOGICHESKIJ FORUM
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Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2017, no. 13

 

BLACK AND WHITE: THE STORY OF A FAILED FILM PROJECT

Galina Lapina
University of Wisconsin
Han Hise Hall, Linden Drive, Madison, WI, USA
gvlapina()hotmail.com

Abstract: In 1931 Mezhrabpomfilm, a Soviet-German film studio financed by Comintern, came up with the idea of producing a propaganda feature film Black and White about racism in the United States and invited a group of Afro-Americans to take part in the production. The arrival of the film group that included Langston Hughes and other young intellectuals was widely discussed in the leftist American press and used by the Soviet propaganda apparatus to promote the image of the USSR as the defender of the oppressed minorities. The production was abruptly stopped by order of the Politburo, because the project had been found to be offensive by influential American professionals and businessmen participating in the industrialisation of the USSR and interested in establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Although the Soviet authorities tried to hide the truth about the sudden abandonment of the project, several members of the group did not believe official explanations and were loud in their protests against the cancellation of the film, accusing the party leadership of compromising with American imperialism and betraying a progressive ideology for the sake of pragmatic interests. Nevertheless, the majority of the members of the film group chose not to support the protest and agreed with the official version.

Keywords: Black and White, racism, communist propaganda, Mezhrabpomfilm, Soviet-American relations, Langston Hughes, Politburo.

To cite: Lapina G., ‘Black and White: The Story of a Failed Film Project’, Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2017, no. 13, pp. 213–246.