War and Peace on the Silver Screen: Russian and the US film propaganda

The new Cold War revives the big-screen showdown between the Russians and Americans

Photo: ‘The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming’ (1966) Directed by Norman Jewison ©  The Mirisch Corporation

Clipper Media: 30 April 2024

‘Red Dawn’ (1984) Directed by John Milius ©  MGM / UA Entertainment Company

War and Peace on the Silver Screen: How Russia and the US conducted propaganda against each other in cinema

Original: RT – 28 April 2024. By Dmitry Kuzmin, Russian movie critic and contributor to one of the country’s top streaming services

At the end of February, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘The Spy War: How the CIA Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin’. The article goes into detail describing relations between the Ukrainian special services and the CIA, which has been training elite Ukrainian special forces since 2016, and helped create secret bases and underground bunkers that are still functioning. The main idea of the article is that American aid has allowed Ukraine to hold on and continue resisting.

One might say this is no secret to anyone, but the very fact that a systemic pro-government publication openly published information that could previously be called a ‘conspiracy theory’ is important. Today, with the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we see a new round of confrontation between the special services of Moscow and Washington. And although many people will perceive this as a showdown between the powerful that is unrelated to their everyday lives, foreign policy has influenced and will influence the lives of any country’s citizens. And it affects their cultural life as well.

The ideological confrontation between the US and the USSR began to be reflected in cinema in the first half of the 20th century. Later, with the beginning of the Cold War, the role of cinema on the propaganda front became decisive. Let’s look at how relations between Russia and the US affected the cinematography of both countries, and how cinema aided and abetted in this confrontation.

‘The Iron Curtain’ (1948) Directed by William A. Wellman ©  20th Century-Fox

How the Cold War in cinema began

Back in the pre-war years, Soviet cinema produced spy films in which certain sabotage or espionage groups tried to disrupt the USSR’s plans to build communism. But since the young state was opposed to capitalism in general, the nationality of the spies was not important. Anyone could act as villains. For example, in the 1924 film ‘Four and Five’, a Soviet pilot battles against five spies who want to steal a militarily significant invention. The film does not go into specifics or say where the spies came from, but it was clear to any viewer that these were agents of Western capitalism.

Though the spy genre was also actively developing in the US, movies produced in this vein were purely for entertainment and did not carry any serious political overtones. Alfred Hitchcock, who shot the fascinating picture ‘The 39 Steps’ – full of chases, plots, and special agents – also loved this genre.

However, everything changed after the Second World War, when the world was divided into two camps. The US began to fight the USSR for spheres of influence, and Hollywood – having received a specific image of the enemy – very quickly retooled and began to produce films with Cold War themes.

The first film that directly addressed the Cold War was ‘The Iron Curtain’, which appeared in 1948. It is based on the memoirs of Soviet GRU agent Igor Guzenko, who worked as a cryptographer at the USSR Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. Three days after the end of World War II, on September 5, 1945, Guzenko stole documents containing information from Soviet agents and handed them over to the Canadian side in exchange for asylum.

Read More


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.