How Wagner uses propaganda movies to promote its image

Propaganda movies

Wagner tries to whitewash its crimes with the release of propaganda movies. An analysis of “Tourist”, one of their most significant yet.

Meduza – Original Article

Propaganda movies are one of the vector used by Wagner to preserve its image. It is no stretch to say that Group Wagner suffers from a bad reputation. The firm has violated human rights in Lybia and released footage of a gruesome murder against a Syrian deserter. When the PMC started to operate in Africa, several other acts of brutality came to light. Notably, three Russian journalists who came to the Central African Republic (CAR) to investigate Wagner’s presence were murdered.

This pushed Wagner to look for ways to launder its image. The PMC worked on an action movie, which was not the first released by Wagner. This is the fourth movie of its kind. The PMC funded “Rzhev”, a military drama. Other of its important projects were “Shugaley” and “Shugaley 2”, two productions related to the Wagner’s CEO linked political strategist Maxim Shugaley, who was imprisoned in Libya in 2019.

The PMC often choose the story of a Russian “specialist” for its propaganda movies, such as “Tourist”. That is, a mercenary tasked with training of the local forces and intervention in an armed conflict. The specialist is depicted as a hero, defending the locals as “foreign intelligence services” plan a coup against the legitimate government.

When watching the trailer, one quickly understands that the movie is not concerned about truth but rather about propagating its own story about Russia’s presence. In terms of quality, this is a far cry from the well researched propaganda movies released throughout the 20th century. The Soviet Union had its share of skilled directors. Even when it comes to propaganda, one has to recognize the real craftsmanship as displayed by Sergei Eisenstein in Battleship Potemkin (1925). Unlike such great productions, “Tourist” is a mediocre action film, with an empty story, which propagandistic aim is transparent.

“Tourist” reminds of one of the nationalistic Chinese film “Wolf Warrior 2”. In a similar fashion, a Chinese paramilitary arrives in an African country and fights against western rogue soldiers to defend the locals. However, the Russian propaganda movie falls short of entertaining the viewer like the Chinese action movie does. The stunts and special effects just can’t be compared.

Not only did the Wagner movie fail on a purely technical level, but its calendar was also very unlucky. Two weeks before its premiere, an investigation about Wagner was published. Radio France Internationale (RFI) conducted research based on UN documents about the PMC’s activity in the CAR. Human rights violations were documented and continued tarnishing the reputation of the Wagner Group.

If the film was meant as a response to the investigations, then it was a very poor one. Indeed, the company directly used its own vehicles, armament and personnel in the propaganda production – the same one commented on in the investigation reports. Disinformation does not always pay off.

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