Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 27, 2009

Using film to explore news, scandal, communism

Robert Buchar, who spoke at the year’s final Caxton Club presentation this past Tuesday, has helped to direct and produce numerous films since coming to the United States in 1980. However, his true passion lies elsewhere.

“I never wanted to produce or direct anything,” said Buchar. “I’m a cinematographer.”

Buchar received his master’s degree in cinematography from the Film Academy of Fine Arts located in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1975. In 1980, he defected to the United States.

“When I first left Czechoslovakia, I didn’t see myself going back ever,” Buchar said. Since then, he has indeed returned multiple times. Buchar’s works explore the collapse of communism and, most intriguingly, make the claim that communism has not actually fallen.

“The fall of communism is a misnomer,” Buchar explains. “It’s a multi-party system, but all parties are run by the same people, so it’s actually no different.”

The claims Buchar makes in his movies are based on hundreds of interviews with people from all walks of life: historians, former KGB officers and CIA officials, people who defected and immigrated to the United States, and government officials. Many of the people he talked to were tracked down through word of mouth – Buchar would talk to one person, who would recommend he speak with another, and so on.

Buchar acknowledged that what those interviews have revealed can be hard to accept. Backing up his points with interview clips from his upcoming film, Buchar stated that around 90% of the world’s organized crime is controlled by Russia and that 40% of American and Canadian banks make profits from helping to launder that money. Another claim that drew gasps from the audience regarded the events of November 17, 1989, in which student demonstrations against the government took place in Prague. One student was supposedly killed- but Buchar described an interview he had with a former KGB official who, in addition to spending two years organizing those demonstrations, also played the role of the dead student. Citing an author who had predicted Russia’s long-term activity with 90% accuracy, Buchar described the hypothesis that Russia had purposely planned communism’s supposed fall to give the appearance of chaos and then reclaim power once the West falsely believed it had established dominance.

“It’s hard to believe it, huh?” Buchar said, and added that in order to accept this, “One friend said he’d have to throw away everything he’s believed his entire life.”

Buchar indicated that much of the information in his movies had been available for years. “I’m not saying anything people haven’t said before. These people have published many times before,” he said, quoting names of many who defected in the 1970’s and 1980’s but were ignored because their picture of what was going on in Russia was “politically inconvenient. They brought information that no one wanted to hear.”

Overall, Buchar seemed to view his work as not merely exploring communism but as asking the question, “How is the reality we perceive from media different from what’s going on?” He also doubted whether or not journalists would ever pick up precisely on what was going on. “They’ve learned the most successful technique for manipulating the media is giving them what they want, but you choose your people. It’s a deception game.”

Buchar’s latest movie, which he has been working on for the past five years, is currently in post-production. Although he is faced with a challenge to find funding to finish the film, Buchar was far from discouraged. He laughed and noted that, “The only people who want me to finish this film are former CIA and KGB agents. They are tied up themselves, but they want someone to tell this story.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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