What would happen if they introduced Communism to Saudi Arabia? Nothing at first but soon there would be a shortage of sand. Why, despite all the shortages, was the toilet paper in East Germany always 2-ply? Because they had to send a copy of everything they did to Moscow.
This is the first ever film about Communist jokes, the most extraordinary cultural legacy of eighty years of socio-political experimentation in Russia and Eastern Europe. Under the oppressive Communist regimes of the Soviet Union and its satellites, ordinary people told thousands of jokes about the society they lived in and the political system they suffered under. Denied free speech, and confronted daily with the gap between political propaganda and everyday reality, jokes became the language of truth in the world of Communism. They were a way for ordinary people to resist the regime – but the Communist regimes also used jokes to diffuse opposition. Jokes were thus the real battleground between state and people under Communism.

Using this unique folkloric archive, this funny and insightful feature-length documentary tells the real history of Communism through the jokes. This Monty-Python-esque history of Communism recreates the jokes using sketches, tricked archive and special animations. The film unearths never-seen-before archive – of the jokes that President Reagan told at Press Conferences, of the only anti-Communist comedy show ever broadcast on a Communist state television channel, and of the jokes and cartoons that the Czechs graffiti-ed on their town square when the Russians invaded in 1968.

Uncovering extraordinary stories never before told on television, director Ben Lewis met the man who collected jokes for Ronald Reagan, the Polish prankster who gave away toilet paper to deprived fellow citizens, and the Romanian amateur statistician who collected and analyzed Communist jokes scientifically to reveal the part they played in the downfall of the system

Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, author and art critic, whose films have been shown by the BBC, Channel 4, Arte, PBS, Al-Jazeera, ABC-Australia and other major broadcasters around the world. Over the years he has won various awards including a Peabody, Grierson, US National Headliner and German Grimme Prize, and his films have been shown in exhibitions in public museums in Britain and Germany.

Ben’s latest feature documentaries “Chancers – the Great Gangster Film Fraud” and ‘A Banker’s Guide to Art were shown on the BBC in January 2016. Falciani’s Tax Bomb opened the Barcelona documentary festival in 2015, was one of three films nominated for the German Fernsehpreis, and was broadcast on ARD, Arte and many other European channels. “Google and the World Brain” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and was shown on the BBC, Arte, Al-Jazeera-US and at 60 film festivals. My 2012 film “Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty” was also shown on over 70 TV channels.

Some of his feature documentaries and televised series’ have been on highly topical subjects and have provoked public debate and influenced political decision-making. ‘The Great Contemporary Art Bubble’ stimulated an international controversy, still continuing today, about the art market in 2009, while ‘Blowing Up Paradise: French Nuclear Testing in the Pacific” (2004) is credited with influencing the French government’s decision to compensate its soldiers and citizens who suffered illnesses after working on atomic installations in Tahiti.

Ben also writes as a historian and art critic. ‘Hammer and Tickle’, a history of humour under Communism was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in Britain in 2008 and in America, Brazil, Poland, Italy, among other countries, in the following years. This year has seen the publication of Ben’s first monograph on an artist, ‘David Hepher: Grain of Concrete’. In the past Ben has written articles published in Die Welt, Prospect Magazine, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Financial Times, Liberation, etc.



until january first, 2012


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