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EAST SIDE STORY

Germany, 1997 (MIFF 1997, Documentaries)

Director: Dana Ranga

Films showing workers singing in fields, teenagers dancing on the beach, or glam­orous working women are not widely associated with socialist European countries. This may change with Dana Ranga's entertaining docu­mentary which reveals that a succession of socialist musicals were made in the USSR, East Germany and other Eastern Bloc countries from the 1930s to the 1970s. The film excerpts seen here span a wide range of musical and visual styles, from torch songs and raunchy rock'n'roll to anthemic numbers with tractors moving in time to music. In both colour and black and white, some of these spectacles rival scenes in the Hollywood extravaganzas, which were the obvious influence on socialist musicals.

With an emphasis on movies from East Ger­many and the USSR, Ranga's film reveals that musicals were enormously popular with cinema-goers, but less so with socialist governments, which felt that these films evoked the "capitalist pleasure industry" of Hollywood. The Soviet musicals show the choreographing of labour, as dancing in hayfields was considered inappropri­ate for a socialist cinema. Yet the most popular socialist musicals enabled spectators to escape from everyday concerns, by evoking feelings of optimism, romance, energy and freedom.

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