David Boulton on the challenges of making films under-cover

Another strand of films that I got involved in but I think this was really something that Gus MacDonald initiated was we needed to meet the criticism that it was very easy for us to go out to the United States, say, a very, very free country and make films very, very critical of the United States and very critical of Western Foreign Policy, make them in the States because it was such a free and open country and you couldn’t go and do the same kind of thing in the Soviet Union or the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe and to meet that kind of criticism we started making films where we went in undercover to Czechoslovakia, to Poland, into the Soviet Union itself to make films with dissident movements within those countries and undercover filming became a strand with which I got involved with. On one occasion I was taking a holiday with the family. We were camping on the shores of Lake Windermere and in those days before mobile phones I said to Anthea, my wife, and the children “I had better just go into Granada to pick up my mail and find out what’s happening.” I went in to Granada and found out that they wanted to send me out to Uganda and so I had to get back to Lake Windermere and unfortunately everybody was out and I left a note on the tent saying, “Gone to Uganda. Back in a fortnight!” That was the last Anthea heard of me for a fortnight! It turned out to be an extremely difficult film to make. We had already made one film called The Man who Stole Uganda (it was about Idi Amin) so we couldn’t possibly go in as Granada Television so we created a little company called ACE Films, ‘East and West, ACE is Best’ was our slogan and we got into Uganda, supposedly to make a little tourist film and we were there talking to the Uganda nations who were being expelled at the time. Unfortunately we were rumbled and I got a call from a senior civil servant who said, ‘We know who you are.’ and he said ‘They know who you are and my advice is to get on the next plane out of Entebbe and get home!’ Well, knowing Idi Amin’s penchant for boiling his enemies in large pots and not really wanting that to be the fate of either myself or my crew and, also, having by that time quite a lot of film, we got out of Entebbe on the next plane and got back and made a very strong film. So that’s the kind of thing that I was doing when I was making films for World in Action.


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