The Victims of Communism Foundation's Blog

Announcing the 2016 Duranty Awards for Historical Distortions in Film

Announcing the 2016 Duranty Awards for Historical Distortions in Film


In advance of this weekend’s Oscar awards ceremony, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is pleased to announce a new award to highlight Hollywood’s feats of cluelessness, naïveté, and deceit when telling the history of socialism, communism, and the Cold War. The annual Duranty Awards will be presented to those films, actors, actresses, and directors whose achievements in the field of misrepresentation truly deserve appropriate attention.

Walter Duranty was a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times in Moscow from 1922 to 1936 who fell hard for Joseph Stalin. Duranty’s reporting from the heart of Stalin’s Soviet Union misled an entire generation, distorting its understanding of what was really going on behind the Iron Curtain. He is infamously known for denying the Kremlin-engineered Holodomor genocide in Ukraine. Under the Times’ imprimatur, Duranty’s work gained an authority and influence it never deserved, and the Pulitzer Prize committee fêted him for his “dispassionate, interpretive reporting of the news from Russia.” The New York Times admitted in 1990 that Duranty’s work “was some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.”

The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who evaded Soviet censorship in order to tell the truth in his reporting on the Holodomor, noted Duranty’s readiness “to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian,” in order to preserve the good name of the Soviet Union.

The Duranty Award features a fist-sized chunk of mineral pyrite, more commonly known as fool’s gold. Fool’s gold is essentially arsenic and iron sulfide with trace amounts of real gold—a similar ratio of lies and truth in Duranty’s reporting on the Soviet Union.

“With each passing year, Hollywood’s historical amnesia about communism and the Cold War grows more disturbing,” said Marion Smith, VOC’s executive director. “The film Trumbo portrayed Hollywood’s most influential communist as an American martyr for free speech, ignoring the fact that communist regimes were—and from China to Cuba, still are—serial abusers of human rights and freedom of conscience. Oliver Stone and Michael Moore continue to produce propaganda celebrating communism and socialism with Stone’s documentary paean to Hugo Chavez Mi Amigo Hugo and Moore’s numerous lifetime contributions to the genre from Sicko to Capitalism: A Love Story.”

Hollywood’s trade is to produce the flashy, the engaging, the exciting, and the compelling. Unfortunately, all too often, known and acknowledged historical facts are left sorrowfully neglected when their inclusion would interfere with other aims. A comparison between fact and fiction reveals an industry that, like Walter Duranty, seems ready to believe the preposterous and overlook the villainous.

We invite movie-lovers everywhere to scrutinize the historical and ideological messages sent by these actors, directors, and films. So in a spirit of playful scorn, we honor this year’s inaugural Duranty Award laureates. The 2016 Walter Duranty Award Winners are…

Film of the Year: Trumbo. This story of self-avowed communist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo completely ignores Stalin’s murderous, totalitarian regime and the Soviet Union’s efforts to bring America into the communist fold through espionage and propaganda, including in Hollywood.

Actor of the Year: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo. Mr. Cranston is awarded for his depiction of Trumbo and commenting that “aspects of socialism are a good thing.”

Director of the Year: Oliver Stone, Mi Amigo Hugo. Stone’s documentary on Hugo Chavez, which aired on Venezuelan state television on the anniversary of his death, portrays the authoritarian ruler as a charismatic “man of the people,” ignoring how the nation’s economy was brought to bankruptcy, free speech rights were harshly curbed, and private property was confiscated under his socialist rule.

Lifetime Achievement in Historical Fiction: Michael Moore, the socialist director of Sicko, which woefully mischaracterized Cuba’s health care system and Capitalism: A Love Story, which embraced socialist rhetoric and arguments against the free enterprise system, along with other unfortunate bouts of historical amnesia.