Farewell, America

[Прощай, Америка]

film still

USSR, Mosfilm, 1949-51 (unfinished), 73 min., color;
Restored 1995 Gosfil'mofond (I. Bitiukov).
Director: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Screenplay: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Camera: Iurii Ekel'chik
Sound: Sergei Minervin
Art Direction: Semen Mandel'
With: Liliia Gritsenko, Nikolai Gritsenko, Ianis Osis, Liudmila Shagalova, Grigorii Shpigel', Grigorii Kirillov

Dovzhenko's screenplay for Farewell, America was based on Annabelle Bucard's The Truth About American Diplomats (1949), an exposé of American diplomats serving in Moscow during the height of the Cold War's McCarthyism and anti-communist witch hunts. Bucard, an American journalist, had emigrated to the Soviet Union and become a Soviet citizen. The simultaneous publication in Moscow of her book in English and Russian clearly signaled the involvement of the Soviet Union's state security agencies.

In Dovzhenko's script, Anna Bedford, a young and idealistic girl from Pennsylvania, accepts a State Department assignment to serve in the US Embassy in Moscow shortly after the allied victory over fascist Germany. Immediately upon her arrival at the new post, she discovers that virtually the entire staff at the embassy is engaged either in espionage or in slandering and vilifying the Soviet state. Her open-minded approach to Soviet reality quickly brings her into conflict with her superiors, who send her back to the States to attend her mother's funeral. While back in Pennsylvania, Anna discovers a changed America, plagued with massive unemployment and hatred fueled by anti-communist hysteria. Even death provides no escape from this national insanity: the cemetery where her mother is buried is plowed under in order to build a new military air base.

Speaking at a discussion of the script at an artistic council on 4 February 1950, Dovzhenko announced his intention "to represent Americans as our antipodes." In his eyes, Anna's return to Moscow was to mark the beginning of her true journey. In a finale that recalls Grigorii Aleksandrov's Circus (1936), the end of the film was to find Anna embraced by the masses of the Soviet people and marching with them across Red Square.

In April 1951, as he was beginning to shoot the scene of Anna's flight from New York to Moscow, Dovzhenko was summoned to the office of Sergei Kuznetsov, the director of Mosfilm studios, where he was informed that the studio had been instructed by the Kremlin to terminate work on the film immediately. All of the footage shot for Farewell, America, which consisted mostly of interior scenes located within the embassy compound in Moscow, was catalogued and stored in Gosfil'mofond, the Soviet Union's largest film archive: six reels of film ready for final editing. In 1958 Gosfil'mofond acquired the only positive print of the film with a complete sound track. The film was restored and re-edited between 1995 and 1996.

Aleksandr Dovzhenko

director photo

Aleksandr Dovzhenko (1894-1956) was a Ukrainian-born film director, scriptwriter, and lecturer at the State Institute for Filmmaking (Moscow). Dovzhenko's early films established him as one of the Soviet Union's most poetic and innovative filmmakers; indeed, Earth frequently makes the list of Ten Most Important Films, despite its open celebration of collectivization. With the onset of Stalinism, Dovzhenko dutifully "served the state," first with Aerograd, his contribution to the "defense culture" of the mid-1930s, and then, at Stalin's direct" suggestion," with Shchors, Dovzhenko's canonization of a little-known Ukrainian leader of Bolshevik forces during the Civil War. After Stalin's merciless denunciation of Dovzhenko's script for "Ukraine in Flames" (1943) as propagandizing "Ukrainian nationalism" and his threats to have Dovzhenko arrested and executed, Dovzhenko's filmmaking career encountered only obstacles (he was repeatedly made to re-shoot and re-edit Michurin; several film projects were suspended at various stages, including production of Farewell, America).

1927 Zvenigora
1927 Diplomatic Pouch
1928 Arsenal
1930 Earth
1932 Ivan
1935 Aerograd
1939 Shchors
1948 Michurin
1949-51 Farewell, America

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