a Alexander Markov project, Serious Directions (DE),  85/52 min. – April 2018



1957. The Soviets arrive on the African continent to spread socialism. The first independent African nations meet them with great enthusiasm and full of hope for a postcolonial future. For more than 35 years the Soviets expand their geopolitical influence in Africa with humanitarian aid programs based on marxist ideology. Up until 1991 some of the country’s best filmmakers were sent along to document the „glorious advance“ of socialism on the entire African continent. A propaganda featuring all Africans as Lenin fans. Then came the nineties. Soviet Union broke apart and "socialism" became a dirty word. Russia, struggling with an economic crisis, lost all political interest in Africa. Still, thousands of kilometers of film footage remain. The film will recreate the time of the “Great Utopia” and expose the gap between African realities and a continent that only existed on celluloid…



The African continent in the sixties experienced radical change, when over 20 countries became independent from their colonial rulers. For the Soviet Union this was a golden opportunity to spread their ideology. Many newly formed African governments perceived socialism as an attractive alternative for imperialism and colonial rule.

The Soviets built relations with African countries, helped build infrastructure and set up cultural and educational exchange programs. In the seventies and eighties their support  increasingly got a military focus and they became involved in the shadow wars of Angola and Mozambique, indirectly fighting against the USA and the South African apartheid regime

Over 30 years, between 1957 and 1991, the Soviets tried to get hold of Africa, but the distant friendships never turned into a real love affair and Africa and the Soviet Union remained strangers until the very end.


The narrative of this film is told by ordinary Soviet citizens. Normally they did not have many opportunities for international travel – even for trips inside their own country special permits were needed. Those that went to see Africa experienced it in their own special way.

Through the eyes of 5 eyewitnesses, we experience the post-colonial history of a continent still trying to find its ideological and political identity: 

A sailor, turned KGB spy takes us to Algeria, the Congo and the Angolan coast on a freight ship. An engineer, who experiences the hardships and the triumph on the majestic construction site of the Aswan dam in Nasser’s United Arabic Republic. (now Egypt). A diplomat’s wife posted in Senegal and Tanzania. A cinematographer joins Patrice Lumumba on his election campaign in the Congolese jungle and is expelled from the country after the military coup. A military translator takes us into the dark heart of the Angolan civil war.

Directly or indirectly, the protagonists all experienced significant historic events, like Lumumba’s murder, Gagarin’s flight into space, uprisings and military coups.  They crossed paths with political leaders like Chrushev, Brezhnev and Ghadaffi.

Perestroika and Glasnost marked the end of an era of Soviet-African relations.

All that lasted of this period are thousands of kilometers of film in Russian archives. The color footage, shot by some of the finest Soviet cinematographers, creates the impression that the Soviets and Africans had established close relations. In reality, Soviet Africa was a continent that probably only really existed on celluloid….

In combination with a new soundtrack, the unique color footage, most of which has never been shown in the West before, is used by director Alexander Markov to create an immersive experience. 



Director - Alexander Markov - Born in Leningrad, Russia in 1973, Alexander graduated from St.Petersburg University of Culture and Arts in film directing. Alexander’s work concentrates on documentaries. His main interest lies with anthropological subjects and intercultural relationships. His films were awarded prizes at various international film festivals like DocPoint, Sheffield Doc, Message To Man, Cinefest, Directors Lounge, Stalker and Kunst Film Biennale. Alexander also works as a curator for The Goethe Institute St. Petersburg , New York African Film Festival and Message To Man IFF and holds a teaching position at St.Petersburg University of Cinema and TV.


Production Company: Serious Directions - is a Berlin-based production company, focusing on creative documentaries, commercials and cross media projects in Eurasia. Producers Heleen Gerritsen and Sahand Zamani both look back at more than 10 years of experience in the audiovisual sector.

WATCH TRAILER: https://vimeo.com/156566215  - password: Gagarin