Nothing at first, but soon there would be a shortage of sand. Under the oppressive Communist regimes of the Soviet Union and its satellites, ordinary people told thousands of jokes about the society they lived in and the political system they suffered under. This documentary tells the real history of Communism through the jokes and the joke-tellers, many of whom ended up in the gulags. The film is illustrated with a combination of rare archive, interviews (Lech Walesa, General Jaruselski) and recreations of the jokes as sketches and animations. It is packed with strange stories– of the official who collected jokes for Ronald Reagan, the Polish prankster who gave away toilet paper to deprived fellow citizens, and of the Romanian statistician who collected and analyzed Communist jokes to reveal the part they played in the downfall of the system.

A Canada co-production with Alegria Pictures.

Format: Digital Video and Animation, Colour, English
Running Time: Feature Documentary
Writers: Ben Lewis & Christine Camdessus
Director: Ben Lewis
Animation Director: John Moose Pagan
Director of Photography: Frank Peter Lehmann
Editor: Jules Cornell
Composer: Ken Williams
Executive Producers: Ben Lewis & Fiona O’Doherty
Producer(s): Christine Camdessus, Leah Mallen
Financing: BBC, ARTE, ZDF, TV2 Denmark SVT, YLE, SBS, Media TV2, Documentary Channel, Telefilm, Roger Cable Network Fund


Awards & Nominations

  • 2006 Zurich International Film Festival – Won Best New Documentary


2006 Screenings

  • 2006 Leeds International Film Festival – Leeds, Scotland
  • 2006 Zurich International Film Festival – Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2006 Tribeca Film Festival – New York City, USA


French & International Sales

22 rue Charles Baudelaire, 75012 Paris, France
Phone: 011 33 1 53 17 99 24 | Fax: 011 33 1 43 43 20 42

Canadian Sales

Screen Siren Pictures Inc
Suite 300, 291 East 2nd Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5T 1B8
Phone: (604) 687-7591 | Fax: (604) 687-4937

Produced by Alegria Productions & Screen Siren Pictures Inc in association with Bergmann Pictures. A BBC Production produced in association with ARTE/ZDF. Produced with the support of MEDIA PLUS PROGRAMME of the European Community. Produced in association with The Documentary Channel. Produced with the participation of the Canadian Television Fund created by the Government of Canada and the Canadian Cable Industry, CTF: License Fee Program Produced with the participation of Rogers Cable Network Fund with the assistance of the Government of Canada Film or Video Production Tax Credit Program, the Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC.
In association with TV2 Denmark, SVT Sweden, YLE 2 Finland, SBS Australia. Developed with the support of Starling (France), Centre National de la Cinématographie, and MEDIA PLUS PROGRAMME of the European Community.