Abstract

Drawing on analysis of three films that converge on the Aral Sea and span from 1929 to 1988, Alec Brookes engages with Marxist scholarship on the Anthropocene and Capitalocene to argue that the Soviet ecology rested on the same fundamental principle of the Capitalist world ecology: the alienation of indigenous producers from land in waves of primitive accumulation. The Forty-First (1956) and Turksib (1929) both show how, alongside other devices, the dialectics of film form as theorized by Sergei Eisenstein were repurposed to reframe the conquest of “Man” over “Nature” and ultimately to appropriate land from producers within an ostensibly Marxist framework. In The Needle (1988), on an already desiccated Aral Sea, director Rashid Nugamov suggests that the restoration of Asian land to Asian producers provides a way forward after the decay and depravation of the Soviet ecology. The analysis here suggests that to confront the Capitalist world ecology in the present we must work to restore land to indigenous producers and promote indigenous ecological relations.

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