News & Festival Updates
About the Film
Adolf Hitler first wrote about “Big Lies” as a propaganda weapon in his famous “Mein Kampf,” but it was Dictator Iosif Stalin who first implemented those truth-bending tactics to cover up massive man-made hunger in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s.
In the film, “Big Lies,” the main character is an American writer who travels to Russia and visits several remote places where she meets a few of the last survivors of Golodomor (Russian term for “death from hunger”). Soon she understands that the war on the Russian peasantry started by Bolsheviks 100 years ago isn’t yet over. She also uncovers many controversial facts about the role played by American media and business in the early 1930s within Soviet Russia and the United States. Even more staggering, she starts to understand connections between events which resonate today. In the current domination of fake news, and with the public’s total mistrust in politicians and leaders, non-stop lies and manipulation threaten the very foundations of democracy.
The Soviet Union didn’t ask for assistance in 1932-1933 partly because Stalin didn’t want the world to know that collectivization which he was Trumpeting as a great triumph, in reality was a real disaster. He didn’t want people inside the Soviet Union to know, and he didn’t want people abroad to know.
Famine was quite deliberately employed as an instrument of national policy, as the last means of breaking the resistance of the peasantry to the system where they are divorced from personal ownership of the land and obligated to work on the conditions which the state may dictate.
A genocide begins with the killing of one man---not for what he has done, but because of who he is.
On one side, millions of starving peasants, their bodies often swollen from lack of food; on the other-soldiers, members of GPU (one of KGB predecessors—Ed.) carrying out the instructions of the dictatorship of proletariat. They had gone over the country like a swarm of locust and taken away everything edible; they had shot or exiled thousands of peasants, sometimes whole villages; they had reduced some of the most fertile land in the world to a melancholy desert.
The Stalinist totalitarian regime tried hard to ensure that everyone kept silent about the Holodomor even people who had survived it, as well as their Children and grandchildren, so that no one knew about this genocide abroad.
About 7 million lives were lost in 1932-1933 due to hunger and illnesses, resulting from malnutrition. The people of the USSR paid a Huge price for industrialization, for the gigantic economic Breakthrough that occurred in those years... an eternal monument to the heroes and victims of the 30s stand over 1500 industrial enterprises.
RESOLVED THAT THE SENATE: (1) Solemnly remembers the 85th anniversary of the HOLODOMOR of 1932-1933 and extends its deepest sympathies to the victims, survivors and families of this tragedy.... (4) encourages dissemination of information regarding the HOLODOMOR of 1932-1933 in order to expand the world’s knowledge of this manmade tragedy.
“There are many vital lessons from the brutal era of Soviet history depicted in Igor Runov’s compelling and powerful film, “Big Lies.’ One of the most important - and timely for this era - is that regimes and dictators, in order to serve their misguided political ends, resort to propaganda to bend the truth. If we’re not careful, if we remain complacent, public language can be corroded and stripped of its meaning. In the end, it is the people, and our basic humanity and values, which suffer most. It’s up to each of us, no matter what country we live in, to make sure this doesn’t happen, that truth be told.”
A Note from The Director
I owe the idea of the film to Mr. Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of Mikhail Gorbachev’s PERESTROYKA and one of the world’s most brilliant and unappreciated politicians of the late 20th century. Once, in the late 1990s, he gave me a book of recently declassified archival documents on Golodomor. “This is one of the darkest and strictly guarded secrets of Stalin’s Era. We should do our best to make people know about it!” — said, Mr. Yakovlev.
Reading through the files I was horrified to learn how during two peaceful years (1931-1933) Stalin and company meticulously planned and starved to death almost 10 million of its own citizens. Millions more were displaced and enslaved by GULAG. During forced collectivization, mass-cannibalism became common as the genocide continued. To me, it looked like a drama of the epic proportion!
However, to make it even more difficult, the whole notion of Golodomor soon became hostage to different political groups in Russia and Ukraine, each faction using it in their ongoing battles. It took me a few years to fully grasp the magnitude of the task—to reveal the real truth about what happened—and to connect it back to the political leaders responsible for the tragedy. But it wasn’t until three years ago when I heard the story of infamous New York Times Moscow reporter, Mr. Walter Duranty, and his false reporting that the story of “Big Lies” finally crystallized in my mind.
Historical Background & Relevance to the Present
We’ve gotten used to living in the post-truth world where fake news, information leaks, cyberwars surprise nobody anymore. Special programmers or fact-checkers now count how many times American or Russian leaders cheated on their own citizens— in a week, a month or a year. And traditional journalistic institutions and news staffs have been weakened in the digital age.
The film reminds us of the maniac who masterminded the propaganda concept of Big Lie almost one hundred years ago. And about another one who first put it into practice with enormous human sacrifice. But the film also gives us hope that all BIG LIES would be impossible if all of us changed our habits and stopped accepting small lies as an unfortunate but necessary evil in our daily lives.
How the Film Was Made
When the truth about Golodomor was revealed in the mid-1990s Igor Runov was hoping, like many others, that the devastating reports about the genocide would become a catalyst in public debates when talking about the victims of political repression, and that public outcry would eventually lead to the denouncement of communism as a criminal regime.
This, however, never happened. The filmmakers decided to interview remaining witnesses of Golodomor, as soon as possible. After considerable research, a few survivors were identified in different parts of the country—Southern Russia, Volga region and North-West—and production was started.
In the meantime, a number of disclosed documents pointed out to the unprecedented and controversial role played by American businesses and media in Soviet Russia in the early 1930s.