Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You...But, When Your Country Comes Asking, Get it in Writing!
I'll let Yevgeniy's own words about the series tell the story behind them:
What Yevgeniy calls "the artificiality of the process of enemy construction" (and its flipside: "ally construction") is something I've always seen as intellectually lazy, opportunistic scapegoatism, and although its political use throughout the world suggests it's seen as an easy way to move or motivate large masses of people, personally I find it so loathsome a tactic as to permanently soil the reputation of any leader who resorts to it. These are harsh words for me to direct at FDR, who has always been a hero of mine, but we saw the inhuman results of this tactic unchecked in the hands of Hitler in WWII, and it buggers (Update: beggars?) belief that Roosevelt couldn't connect the dots and see why it's too uncontrollable a weapon to unleash without taking extra measures to protect those asked to deliver it. In short, why the f*ck didn't FDR leave some "get out of jail free" cards for the artists he asked to serve their country?
This series of oil paintings is based on imagery borrowed from Hollywood films about Russia made in 1943-1944 at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to garner more support for the Soviet Union during WWII, and to change the opinion of the American public toward the USSR. The films "The North Star" and "Song of Russia" (both by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and "Mission to Moscow" (Warner Brothers) were essentially pro-Soviet propaganda produced in Hollywood that presented Stalin's Russia in a very favorable light. All three films completely matched both the aesthetics and rhetoric of Stalin's Socialist Realism of the 1930s and '40s. These were essentially Socialist Realist motion pictures -- both in terms of form and content -- and yet, produced in Hollywood and sanctioned by F.D.R. himself.
What makes these films unique is that they were produced in the USA during the Second World War, that is between the anti-Soviet hysteria that followed the October Revolution and the "Cold War" era. These films were made possible only during 1943-1944 when the goals of the American and Soviet propaganda machines coincided. The project "Song of Russia" reflects this forgotten chapter of the history of American cinema and narrates about the artificiality of the process of enemy construction.
What makes these films even more interesting is that after WWII, during McCarthyism and the "witch hunt," it's precisely these films that became the focus of the hearings of the Committee on anti-American activity and communist infiltration in Hollywood in the US Congress. As a consequence, many of the creators of these films were blacklisted for they couldn't prove direct orders of the Roosevelt administration to produce these films.
Particularly loathsome in this sad chapter of American history (and I simply can't stomach the woman, what can I say) is this trivia bit from the IMDB listing for "Song of Russia":
This film was the subject of inquiry by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in October 1947. Testimony as to the distortions of Soviet life presented in the film was provided by Ayn Rand, screenwriter and author of "The Fountainhead" and 'Atlas Shrugged".So it's not even that FDR exposed the patriots who heeded his call to this later blacklisting that makes the back of my neck furl, it's that other pathetically self-serving, parasitical artists would lunge at the opportunity to promote themselves through the process. Even if that's unfair to Ms. Rand (and she was simply offering her unbiased opinion), I honestly don't care. She knew what her testimony would mean for her fellow filmmakers and what HUAC was all about.
Even as I write about this and feel the venom oozing out through my text, I do wonder why I still care. This is ancient history, right? Manipulating the masses to hate one group of people, then like them just a little bit, then hate them again...these are obvious tactics to us and we don't fall for that kid's stuff any more, right?
Consider this an open thread.