“Mr. Jones”: As a Journalist, Stalin’s famine revealed


In 1933, Stalin allowed millions of Ukrainians to starve. The West learned about it for the first time by the journalist of “Mr. Jones”. At the Berlinale Agniezska Holland reminds me of him. Her Film is a tribute to the freedom of the press.

“Mr. Jones” starts with a cage full of smack, and pigs in the midst of endless fields of wheat. This scene is the once-fertile agricultural sector of Ukraine. In the years 1932 and 1933, this situation changed. The Ukrainians suffered the famine. Millions of people died because they had nothing to eat.

Stalin made the Ukraine bread-tin of the Soviet Union and used its resources to Finance its ambitious industrialization projects and to be able to important party officials by feed. From that time the term “Holodomor” of the Ukrainian words for famine (Holod), and destruction (Mor) comes.

The Team: actor Peter Sarsgaard, screenwriter Andrea Chalupa, Director Agnieszka Holland and actor James Norton at the Berlinale

“Mr. Jones” at the Berlinale

The movie “Mr. Jones”, by the Polish Director Agnieszka Holland, had its Premiere on Sunday at the Berlin film festival. Holland portrays the journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton), who informed the Western world about the Stalin induced famine. The young Welsh Reporter had made at the time a name. As the first foreign Journalist, he interviewed Adolf Hitler in February 1933, after the latter’s appointment as Reich Chancellor. Then he traveled to the Soviet Union to investigate how Stalin financed the country in times of world economic crisis and failed to modernize.

Jones made contact with Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard), the correspondent of the “New York Times” in Moscow. In 1932, he had won for a series of Reports on the Soviet Union a Pulitzer prize. Duranty moved back in front with the avant-garde to celebrate the artists and the opium-smokers to join with others in the utopian Experiment of Stalin with items that wouldn’t have made it anyway to the Soviet censors in the past.

Large parts of the population suffered from Hunger

Jones eventually travelled secretly to Ukraine, and was a witness of the famine. His observations, he published the end of March 1933. Newspapers around the world handles it. A few days later, Duranty put the presentations in a separate article: “Russians hungry, but not Starving”.

The Film shows Jones as a journalist who only reports the farmers. As his supplies are stolen, he learns the hard way what it means to be hungry. The film-maker Agnieszka Holland wanted to go beyond the “tourist point of view of a British journalist,” she said at the press conference for the world premiere. You have to find a way, the atrocities. She wanted to avoid the “pornography of violence” and still stay close to reality.

During the Holodomor, people were starving in the Ukraine on the road

Many historical documents handed down

Her portrayal of famine is not based solely on Jones’ lyrics. The Director also relies on eyewitness reports and other documented events. In one scene, the corpse of a mother and the body of your still-living infant is thrown on other corpses that are transported on a sled.

The grandfather of the screenwriter Andrea Chalupa has witnessed this scene: a Survivor of the Holodomor, was born in the Donbass Region in Eastern Ukraine, the separatists military support from Russia. Well, the spreading of cannibalism is also documented.

Ukraine speaks of genocide

Under pressure from the Kremlin, Western correspondents denied did at the time, Hunger and atrocities. Until today, the Holodomor is a politically charged subject. The estimates of the death toll vary greatly. A UN Declaration of 2003 of seven to ten million deaths. The Ukraine referred to the events as genocide, as well as 17 other Nations.

The title of the film also takes up George Orwell’s anti-Stalinist novel “animal Farm”, and finally, the builders were there, Mr. Jones. Orwell himself appears as a character in the Film. Scenes in which Orwell (Joseph Mawle) writes in his allegorical story against Stalin, form the framework of the main plot.

Although it is unclear whether Jones and Orwell have actually ever met, their joint appearance was, however, an artistic allusion to their intellectual courage, said screenwriter Chalupa. When Researching for the Film they found out that “animal Farm” found at the beginning, especially in the Ukrainian Diaspora appeal, the detected in the satirical allegory of his own fate.

Orwell’s book “animal Farm” is a critique of Stalinism

Recognition for a Reporter in crisis regions

In 2004, Chalupa had started work on the script. In the years that needed the project up to its completion, won the authoritarianism in the world. Suddenly it was no longer in the case of “Mr. Jones” only to a neglected Chapter in the history of. The Film was a tribute to all the reporters who risk their lives to uncover the truth – especially in these times of Fake News.

Agnieszka Holland’s Film “Mr. Jones” is a tribute to the freedom of the press

“We are lacking today, not of corruptible conformists and egoists, it is Orwell’s and Jones’. That is why we have brought it back to life,” said the Director, Agnieszka Holland. The award-winning filmmaker is known for works dealing with the Holocaust and the history of the 20th century. Century employ, including “Hitler boy Salomon” (1991), “In Darkness” (2011) and “The track” (2017). The now 70-Year-old led also directed several episodes of the US series “The Wire” and “House of Cards”.

“The spirits of the Holodomor step back into the spotlight”

The independent Russian research Institute Levada Center asked Russians in 2017, in a survey of the “most outstanding Person” the history of the world. Stalin was 38 percent at the top, followed by Putin with 34 percent. “It shows the enslavement of the spirit and of the people,” said Holland. Stalin was one of the greatest murderers of history for millions of deaths. “But he won the war and made the Soviet Union great again.” The current Situation in the country and the hostile relations with the Ukraine contribute to the relevance and topicality of the film. “The spirits of the Holodomor step back into the spotlight,” said Holland.