Tag Archives: USSR

MIFF 2019: Meeting Gorbachev (2018)

Directors: Werner Herzog & Andre Singer

Featuring: Mikhail Gorbachev, Yuri Andropov, James Baker, Leonid Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko, Raisa Maximovna Gorbacheva, Miklos Nemeth, Vladimir Putin, Ronald Reagan, Horst Teltschik, Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, Boris Yeltsin


I always like to see a Werner Herzog documentary at the festival and thought his last one about the internet was not really up to his standard. Even though it is about Gorbechev, it is clear who is in charge as Werner talks of being “summoned” by the subject to complete the interviews required for the documentary also the mentions of how Gorbechev has clearly done his research into the film maker and knows what sort of questions he will ask.

The very first question Werner asks is assuming that the first German Gorbechev met would have wanted to kill him. Gorbechev flips the script by saying his neighbours on his family’s farm were German. Werner Herzog insists he is not Mikhail Gorbachev’s “buddy” even though they use first names in the film.

Was a bit much Werner Herzog calling Gorbechev’s home town “God forsaken” but you would expect that sort of thing by now.

As they describe in the documentary the USSR was crumbling by the time Gorbechev finally came to power and the succession of identical funerals for former leaders shows this but I am not sure it was necessary to show all three.

There are a lot of clips of former leaders shown from the time period including Margaret Thatcher speaking on nuclear weapons. Gorbechev disagrees with her views and says she goes too far. Was a comment from the audience “Margaret Thatcher is the perfect villain in everything I have seen her in.”

Interestingly there is a sequence from another documentary, Gorbachev. After Empire released in 2001 by Vitaly Mansky. I remember watching this on SBS TV in Australia specifically his old blind auntie crying and saying “My Misha!”

The documentary tells the story Mikhail Gorbachev and how he transformed himself from a simple farm boy to the leader of one of the largest nations on earth and was loved by the people as he would go out onto the street to talk to them. Would be hard to imagine Putin doing that these days.

You can see the bandage on Gorbechev’s hand in some scenes as he had to be delivered from the hospital as he really wanted to finish the film.

An excellent documentary and hopefully it will get a wider release after it finishes the festival circuit.

Bonus Q&A with Werner Herzog at TIFF

In conversation with Werner Herzog at TIFF

Gorbachev. After Empire (2001) | Vitaly Mansky

East Side Story (1997)

Director: Dana Ranga

Tagline: Tractor! The Musical!

I had heard rumours and seen some clips of Eastern European communist musicals before, but I never knew that someone had made a documentary about them until my research on tractors turned up this title.

Through as series of clips of the movies, interviews with the people involved in their production, audiences and recreations of party review committees, this documentary attempts to tell the story of a forgotten era of cinema from behind the Iron Curtain.

I have to say after watching this that some of these films look like the best movies ever. It is very frustrating to find out after my own further research that the amount of these movies that are actually available today can be counted on the fingers of one hand. (When I first watched this documentary back in 2005, a lot less of these movies were available.)

It is a bit sad that these films were never considered as ‘art’ when they were released, as it means that many of them were just forgotten after the fall of communism. The people involved had a hard enough time making them in the first place and they deserve recognition for their achievements.

I also liked the funny anecdotes from this movie, such as Stalin liking to laugh it up with funny movies and having a fantasy for ‘boys photographing tractors’. The views of the audience members interviewed were also great to hear as you don’t normally hear their opinions in this sort of documentary.

This documentary comes very highly recommended and I am planning on buying a copy on DVD (along with the movie ‘Hot Summer’) as soon as I am able to so I can watch it again for the great musical clips.

Rating: 9/10

Buy the documentary on VHS (DVD too expensive)

Full movie now on Youtube!

DEFA Film Library – Cinema of East Germany

Hot Summer clips

No Cheating, Darling! clips

Full list of films in the documentary and availability:

Title Non-english Title Country Year IMDB entry DVD Youtube Clip
Adventure in Marienstadt Przygoda na Mariensztacie Poland 1954 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047373/ http://www.youtube.com
The Antique Coin Antike Münze, Die Bulgaria/GDR 1966 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058911/
AT 6PM at the End of the War В 6 часов вечера в конце войны USSR 1944 http://vobzor.com/page.php?id=1394 http://www.youtube.com/
The Bright Path Светлый путь USSR 1940 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215582/ http://www.russiandvd.com/
Carnival Night Карнавальная ночь USSR 1957 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049397/ http://www.amazon.com/
Cossacks of the Kuban River Казаки Кубани USSR 1946 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041562/ http://www.ozon.ru/
Ernst Thalmann, Class Leader Ernst Thälmann – Führer seiner Klasse GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048038/ http://www.amazon.de/
A Handful of Notes Handvoll Noten, Eine GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0230272/
Hard Work, Happy Holiday GDR 1950
Hot Summer Heißer Sommer GDR 1968 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061756/ https://defafilmlibrary.com/
I Don’t Want to Marry Nu vreau sa ma însor Romania 1961 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0125960/ http://www.youtube.com/
The Jolly Fellows Веселые ребята USSR 1934 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025946/ http://www.russiandvd.com/
The Lovable White Mouse Geliebte weiße Maus GDR 1964 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058134/ http://www.amazon.de/Geliebte-wei%C3%9Fe-Maus-Der-Reserveheld/dp/B0000AMK3R http://www.veoh.com/watch/
Midnight Revue Revue um Mitternacht GDR 1962 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056411/ http://www.amazon.de/Revue-um-Mitternacht-Christel-Bodenstein/dp/B0012OVDZE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEeUzf6eq8M
My Wife Wants to Sing Meine Frau macht Musik GDR 1958 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051919/ http://www.amazon.de/
New Year’s Punch Silvesterpunsch GDR 1960 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175168/ http://www.amazon.de/Silvesterpunsch-VHS-Erich-Franz/dp/B00004RXZ3/
No Cheating Darling Nicht schummeln, Liebling GDR 1973 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068999/ http://www.amazon.de/
The Swineherd and the Shepherd Свинарка и пастух USSR 1941 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034249/ http://www.ozon.ru/
Tractor Drivers Трактористы USSR 1939 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032050/ http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/701881/?item=2396079 http://www.youtube.com/
Vacation on the Black Sea Vacanta la mare Romania 1963 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175289/ http://www.youtube.com/
Volga, Volga Волга – Волга USSR 1938 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030947/ http://www.ozon.ru/
The Wayward Wife Lots Weib Czechoslovakia/GDR 1965 http://www.umass.edu/defa/
Woman on the Rails Dáma na kolejích Czechoslovakia 1968 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060279/ http://www.csfd.cz/