Hollywood’s bent towards Communism from its very inception forward has given us, through the decades, film after film expressing anti-Nazi themes. And who could ever protest exposing Nazi evils? However, even in the last decade Hollywood continues to pour forth films marching the Nazi’s before us with one of the most recent ones being “Jojo Rabbit.” I’d wager to bet that every reader can rip off the top of their heads at least five films where the Nazis were villains.
Not only have there been the ubiquitous “we hate Nazis” films but there have also been the “those poor Communists” films. Films like, “Trumbo,” and “The Majestic,” work to the end of making the audience feel sorry for the Marxists. It is twisted history at its finest. This is not even to mention the rabidly pro-communist films that Hollywood spit out during WW II. Films like “Mission to Moscow,” and “The North Star,” “The Battle for Russia,” and many more were all films that were Soviet propaganda made by Americans to the end of having Americans sympathize with the blood thirsty Communists. Can you, dear Reader, rip off the top of your heads at least 5 films where the Communists were villains?
The reason this phenomenon remains the case is that Hollywood remains largely pro-Marxist in its sympathies. Books like, “An Empire of their Own,” demonstrate this reality. We can only conclude that the same Hollywood tribe who made their sufferings in the holocaust well known worked overtime making sure that the sufferings of others in the Ukrainian Christian holdomor were muted.
However, recently, there seems to have developed a disturbance in Hollywood’s dark side of the force. In the last 3 years a couple films have been released that not only indicts the monstrous regime that was the USSR, but also pictures those sympathetic to Communism in an unflattering light.
In 2017 the film “Bitter Harvest” was released. Though it will never be considered an “A-list” film, it remains a quality release. The story centers on a young Ukrainian couple who are star struck with each other from the tenderest of ages. Eventually they marry, but hardship drives them apart. The film tells their story of childhood in grain rich Ukraine, of their coming of age in Bolshevik occupied Ukraine, of their separation because of the heavy hand of the Bolsheviks in Ukraine, and of their reunion, all as seasoned with Yuri and Natalka’s other family and friends surrounding them as those supporting roles fill out the characters of Yuri and Natalka as well as their relationship. All of this romantic drama as set in the larger context of the 1932 Soviet occupation of Ukraine and the subsequent Ukrainian Holodomor.
At this point it would be tempting to rush ahead with the film story, but I’m not sure the average reader even knows what this thing called the holodomor is. Hollywood as taught you relentlessly what the “Holocaust” was with films like “Schindler’s List,” “The Pianist,” and “Inglorious Bastards,” but it has been largely silent on the Holodomor.
The Holodomor was the political starvation of the Christian Ukrainian people starting in 1929 as ordered by Soviet Premier, Joseph Stalin and as carried out by his Jewish Bolsheviks which resulted in the cruel death by starvation of the Ukrainian people in the vicinity of 15 million of people. This number dwarfs the number of losses in the Hollywood approved “Holocaust,” and yet you, dear reader, likely know very little to nothing about it. For people interested in reading about this politically incorrect attempt at genocide one should read Robert Conquest’s “Harvest of Sorrow.”
“Bitter Harvest” thus is set in this context. As such, in telling Yuir and Natalka’s story the film gives us a glimpse of the horrors of the holodomor. In the film we are introduced to the Bolshevik Commissars in Yuir and Natalka’s village who treated Ukrainian life then the way that unborn babies are treated today. These Bolsheviks oppressed, persecuted and murdered the Ukrainian people as they fulfilled Stalin’s orders by seizing the grain leaving the Ukrainian people starving. As such the film “Bitter Harvest” exposes the wickedness that exceeded the “Holocaust” by a qauntam factor.
In the course of “Bitter Harvest,” the curtain is pulled back just a little on the evils of Communism. We see the reality of prisons for those Ukrainian Nationalists who wouldn’t bend to Stalin. We see daily mass executions in Soviet prisons. We witness the casual cruelty of Communist true believers. We see the local Communist Commissar use the promise of food to seduce and attempt to rape the starving Natalka. We see the censoring of art and pressing in of thought control. (What today we call “political correctness.”) We see the futile attempt of the Ukrainians to rise against their Communist Masters. Finally, “Bitter Harvest,” reveals what Communism best produces, and that is people seeking to flee to freedom.
As I said, it is not an “A” list film but it is a quality film worthy of viewing if only because it begins to pull back the curtain on the holodomor for American grazers who learn their history through film. For whatever it is worth, you should give “Bitter Harvest” a view.
In a film released in 2019 that is an “A” list film that also deals with the holodomor is “Mr. Jones.” As much as I rejoiced over “Bitter Harvest” I exulted in the release of “Mr. Jones,” if only because more light was being cast upon the holodomor.
“Mr Jones,” tells the story of the young educated Englishman, Gareth Jones, who had both the courage to find out for himself the truth about the ongoing holodomor by visiting the Ukraine himself, and then by withstanding the onslaught on his character because he violated the politically correct narrative of his time as supported by journalist and political elites.
I stumbled across and first learned of Jones about 15 years ago upon reading S. J. Taylor’s “Stalin’s Apologist.” This book is a biography on Walter Duranty, who serves as the devotee to the lie in the film “Mr. Jones” to Gareth Jones advocacy of the truth. In brief Duranty and Jones are foils to one another in the film. This contest between Duranty and Jones thus frames the film as the theme of the film is truth vs. lies. Early in the film, Jones is discussing “truth” with the leading female (Vanessa Kirby) of the film and Jones insists that he is looking for the truth regarding the Ukraine. Kirby character Ada Brooks responds by asking “whose truth?,” and then only a little later in the face of Jones’ protestations about true truth, responds by chiding Jones that his view on truth is “a little naive isn’t it?” The theme of the film is then anchored at the end of the film as Ada phones and leaves a message for Jones saying, “tell Gareth he was right about truth.” Between those two conversations we see Gareth Jones, in the film, as against all odds, being a champion of truth. He champions truth before his employer MP David Lloyd George and his staff, he champions truth with his foil Walter Duranty, he champions truth in his bylines that are printed in the London Times. “Mr Jones” portrays Gareth Jones as a early incarnation of Solzhenitsyn’s maxim, “Live not by lies.”
The truth of the holodomor in the Ukraine pursued by Stalin was being suppressed everywhere in the West since, like Hollywood in the introductory paragraphs of this column, Journalist and Newspapers were being run largely by those with a political and kinship interest to keep the holodomor buried. Not only was the story buried by journalists but chaps like Walter Duranty (London’s “Man in Moscow”) also wrote complete fabrications and lies about the genocide that was the holodomor. Duranty was so good at his circumlocutions and prevarications that he was awarded a 1932 Pulitzer prize in Journalism for his lies touching the Ukraine. This is what Jones (and Malcolm Muggeridge) were facing in writing in contradiction of Duranty’s Pulitzer. Duranty’s writing was so distorted that Muggeridge later spoke of him as “the greatest liar I ever knew.” One can easily see how Duranty proves the excellent foil for a film that emphasizes that true truth exists. Keep in mind here that Duranty’s correspondent releases from Moscow to the New York Times at this time shaped American policy causing many to conclude that Duranty’s lies led to the US, under FDR, to diplomatically recognize the Soviet Union. Yet the film “Mr. Jones” leads the viewer to conclude, despite the whole web of lies spun by Duranty, the New York Times, and Sydney and Beatrice Webb, Gareth Jones’ “One word of truth outweighed the world.” It really is inspirational.
In the context of this war between the lie and the truth we are given insight of the holodomor in “Mr. Jones.” The film doesn’t go all in on showing the barbarity and cruelty of the holdomor. It instead takes a more subtle approach to exposing the sadness. It shows people dumpster diving for Jones’ orange peel that he casually tosses away into a coal container. It shows children hauntingly singing a child’s song about Stalin playing a tune on a fiddle leading to the death of the Ukraine by the seizure of their grain. Stalin’s tune led to madness of Fathers and Mothers having to watch their children die. Stalin’s tune led to hunger and cold. The film shows the death squad out collecting bodies tossing a wailing orphan on top of the dead bodies knowing that the orphan himself isn’t long for the world since his mother was one of the dead collected. The film subtly reveals to the viewer cannibalism. The film demonstrates Jones himself seeking to eat bark in order to survive.
Throughout all this the cruelty of Stalin and the Bolshevik Commissars is put on display. Yet, as I said earlier all this is done with comparative subtlety. One feels the impact of the starvation but isn’t overwhelmed by it. (Showing the reality would turn the film into a horror film.)
The technique of the Director is to film in somber colors to communicate the colorlessness of life in communism. The lighting is dimmed so that one feels, as they view the movie, that they are in some sort of place where the illicit is occurring.
Interestingly and cleverly enough food is a sub-theme of the film. Conversations over meals serve as both contradiction to the famine occurring in Ukraine and as irony that the Soviet apparatchiks are feasting while others are eating straw soup and are cannibalizing. The West also comes in for some derision here as a couple of scenes, once Jones returns home, shows the abundance of food in the West.
One final wildcard weaves its way through the film and that is the presence of George Orwell as working on his “Animal Farm.” Orwell becomes the final judge over the contest of truth vs. lie, of Jones vs. Duranty. Orwell is a man who desires to believe in all that the Bolshevik Revolution stood for in the minds of the Utopians yet still connected enough to reality to be able to believe that it might well all be a lie. In the end Jones convinces Orwell that “Stalin is not the man you believe him to be.” It is clear that Orwell is convinced by Jones and yet is deeply saddened that he has been convinced. “Animal Farm” in this film is the result of Orwell’s sad convincing.
“Mr. Jones” ends with displaying to the viewer the price that Jones had to pay for telling the truth. Perhaps the films most disappointing moment is when Jones is vindicated. I would say that is the most disappointing moment of the film because it simply is the case that those carrying the truth are not typically often vindicated in their lifetime. I am convinced that most often they are not.
See the film … if you enjoy a film with plot and character development you won’t be disappointed.