Networks in 15 countries have begun airing a six-part, cross-media documentary series about the fall of the Soviet bloc. Directed by Andrei Nekrasov and co-produced by Artline Films and Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion in association with ARTE and 30 European partners, Farewell Comrades! was four years in the making and is part of a wider, interactive web documentary project.
The US$3.1 million film was shot in 12 countries throughout Eastern Europe and alternates between archival footage and eyewitness accounts to chart the decline of communism in Europe from 1975 to 1991. Key interviewees include Andrei Grachev, the spokesperson for former Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev; ex-KGB general Alexei Kondaurov; and Bozena Rybicka, secretary to former Polish president Lech Walesa.
“This series is truly groundbreaking, as it is bringing together both television and online audiences across Europe, the better to understand a major historical event,” said Olivier Mille, CEO of Artline Films.
“It is also the first time the fall of the Soviet empire has been explained at the scale of a continent, as opposed to country by country. Farewell Comrades! breaks down national barriers so that the full meaning of this key historical period will be available to everyone.”
The web documentary, produced by Christian Beetz, cost US$450,000, required three years of development and filming and was coproduced by six countries. Users navigate the interactive program via 30 postcards sent or received between 1975 and 1991 that provide access to various aspects of life behind the Iron Curtain, such as counter-cultural movements, secret services, ecological disasters, art and sports.
The series is available in six languages and will be online for two years via Arte.tv in English, French and German and in another version in Czech, Romanian and Norwegian. A book based on the documentary co-authored by György Dalos has also been published.
The series will air in France (ARTE and Histoire), Germany (ZDF/ARTE), Poland (TVP) Switzerland (RTS), the Czech Republic (Ceska TV), Slovakia (RTVS), Estonia (ERR) and Greece (ERT). On ARTE, the first two episodes are scheduled for January 24. It has already been broadcast in Finland (YLE-TV1), Romania (TVR), Norway (NRK), Lithuania (LRT), Sweden (SVT) and Hungary (MTV)
The series’ distributor, ARTE France, will attend NATPE, which takes place January 23-25 in Miami.