August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

Our Africa

(2018) 45 min. DVD: $149: public libraries; $249: colleges & universities. DRA. Ukulele Film (avail. from www.ourafricafilm.com). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Just in time for renewed concerns that Russia under Vladimir Putin is ratcheting up activities and influence in Africa, Alexander Markov’s found-footage documentary Our Africa invokes a long era during the Cold War when Russia pursued strategic and economic interests in Africa. Unfortunately, Markov doesn’t adequately make clear that his film is culled exclusively from Soviet-era propaganda footage he found in a vault that highlights official Russia’s skewed narrative that—beginning in 1960—post-colonial development of some African countries was the result of socialism and Russian beneficence. And Markov doesn’t simply present old propaganda material the way he found it, but also recuts those old films in a way that underscores the positive messages presented to Russian audiences when they saw newsreels in movie theaters (until the collapse of the Soviet Union). It’s fascinating to see Khrushchev and Brezhnev making nice with leaders in Congo and Nigeria, interspersed with footage of dam construction, military parades, and Russian folk dancing. But Our Africa would have been better served with more upfront context for what the audience is looking at and why it matters. Optional. Aud: C, P. (T. Keogh)