An Anagram

Sale Format(s): DVD

A video by Daniel Barnett

Communism is not only an economic structure and a political model but also a belief system, and Russia, once the hub of the Soviet Union was the incubator of that system for most of the twentieth century. But Soviet Communism failed its constituents badly and when its leader Mikhail Gorbachev instituted major reforms, Communist Party hardliners attempted a coup against him that failed after two days. Subsequently the Communist Party was outlawed.

The aftermath of that coup was captured very poignantly by ABC-TV's former Moscow Bureau cameraman/producer Gary Henoch. In the autumn of 1991, Henoch and Slavic studies professor Harlow Robinson shot 40 hours of interviews and supporting footage in Russian cities and in the countryside. With extraordinary sensitivity to the emotional impact of the sudden collapse of that belief system Henoch and Robinson recorded the sentiments of both stalwart Communists and closet anti-Communists.

At a loss for how to actually structure the material and dismayed by the attempt of a major PBS station to produce a propaganda piece from the footage, Henoch turned all the material over to me and gave me complete freedom to do with it as I pleased.

The film I made from Gary Henoch and Harlow Robinson's footage, An Anagram, is not a documentary at all, but rather a poetic essay on the impact of the sudden collapse of a belief system on a culture. It has a 17 part quasi-musical structure inspired by Dmitri Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues that at times ignores the literal meaning of certain interviews for the fragrant affect of the language and body language; that is, certain interactions are left un-translated so that the viewer is given full and unfettered access to the musical spirit that animates the arguments and quarrels caught so delicately in the sound and images.

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