Saving Bruce Lee – African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany
19 Jan 2018 - 21 Jan 2018

Didi Ould Nana, a Mauritanian student in the Cinematography Department. | Courtesy VGIK-Archive,

In the wake of postcolonial liberation the Global South was contested terrain, caught between the two superpowers of the Cold War for the deployment of influence and allegiance. At a time when cinema was a fertile field for forging national identity, film scholarships represented one of the USSR’s tools for “cultural diplomacy.”

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, many filmmakers from the Arab world and African continent who would later become prominent received their diplomas from the prestigious Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow. With Saving Bruce Lee – African and Arab Cinema in the Era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, the curators Koyo Kouoh and Rasha Salti explore the impact of the USSR’s policy of granting scholarships and training professionals in the field of film production. The three-day program of screenings, talks and lectures brings together the former students and other film experts, recovering virtually unknown diploma films which will be screened together with prominent works of the filmmakers.

Saving Bruce Lee invites VGIK graduates Ossama Mohammed, Suliman Mohamed Ibrahim Elnour, and Mohamed Abouelouakar to present their own films and engage with filmmakers Suhaib Gasmelbari, Ali Essafi, Jihan El Tahri, and Valérie Osouf. They will give insight into their research on this rarely considered versant in film history, and interrogate canons of African and Arab cinema. Lectures by three prominent scholars of Soviet film and cultural history, Gabrielle Chomentowski, Elena Razlogova, and Constantin Katsakioris, will reflect on the USSR’s cinematic foreign affairs.



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