From the 1920s to the 1980s, a communist version of the Western genre was extremely popular in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. IFFR 2011 will be screening the first ever sizeable overview of these almost forgotten genre productions, which have seldom been seen at in ‘the West’.

The striking Red Westerns series will show just how successfully a pre-eminently Western film genre was tailored to the communist ideology by introducing, for example, unexpected heroic characters. The programme therefore gives insights into the way popular blockbusters were made in an era of socialistic realism.

Red Westerns, compiled by IFFR programmer Ludmila Cvikova and Russian film critic Sergei Lavrentyev, will also screen in 2011 at the Gothenburg IFF (Sweden), Crossing Europe in Linz (Austria), Era New Horizons in Wroclaw (Poland) and IFF Bratislava (Slovakia). A special publication will accompany the programme. For the occasion, Mosfilm Studio’s in Moscow made new, English subtitled prints from five of the films in the Red Westerns programme.

The starting point for the Red Westerns programme is the silent film Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in a Bolshevik Land (1924) by Russian film pioneer and theoretician Lev Kuleshov. The programme, which will be made up of approximately fifteen films, also contains Niekas Nenorejo Mirti (No One Wanted to Die, 1966, directed by Vytautas Zalakevicius) – a Western filmed in Lithuania that was voted Best Film by the readers of ‘Soviet Screen’ in 1966 – and two East German DEFA productions: Die Söhne des Großen Bärin (The Sons of Great Mother Bear, 1965, directed by Josef Mach) and Chingachgook, Die Große Schlange (Chingachgook, The Great Snake, 1967, directed by Richard Groschopp). In the latter two films, the Mongolian, Bulgarian, Yugoslav, Czechoslovakian landscapes stand for the Wild West and Gojko Mitic – originally a Serbian sports instructor – stars in the lead roles. 

Films in ‘Signals: Red Westerns’