Leah Cameron takes pride in The Communist’s Daughter having an unabashed socialist streak, even if her Canadian uber-left web comedy is a world away from Russian bread lines and iron-fisted Stalinism.
“I’m excited about the comedy that comes from black and white thinking that some people have in America, about communism being the enemy,” Cameron, who created, showran and directed the recent winner of the coveted Web Series World Cup, told The Hollywood Reporter.
In her native Canada, where snowbirds vacation in Cuba and Russian cars are popular with local drivers, socialism as a word has shades of meaning. “I wanted to make a show where even if the quest of the politics and the neighborhood gets petty and silly, we can still see the positive in the ideals of socialism and Marxism, and they’re worth fighting for,” Cameron added.
The Communist’s Daughter — set in 1989 during the Ronald Reagan era just as the West and capitalism were about to win the Cold War — portrays the Bolshevik McDougald family fighting against that political tide. The personal and the political come together in the titular character, 15-year-old Dunyasha, played by Sofia Banzhaf, who is mortified as her Marxist father picks her up at school in a spluttering Russian army vehicle just as she falls for her high school heartthrob, played by Kolton Stewart.
The McDougalds, led by neighborhood Pinko parents played by Aaron Poole and Jessica Holmes, in their madcap adventures are less about pushing political radicalism than just having outsized dreams of society sharing the wealth in a workers’ paradise. “My father went through a Marxist phase, calling himself a communist at the height of the Reagan 80s. It just seemed normal to me,” Cameron recalled.
She added the series — part political satire, a send-up of 1980s America and its devotion to consumer capitalism — is more an exaggerated account of her high school years in Toronto delivered with gentle sarcasm and wit. During her youth, Cameron’s father did drive a Russian-made Lada 4 X 4 and ran (unsuccessfully) for political office, which echoes Dunyasha’s father, Ian, in the web series campaigning in local politics by espousing sentimental delusions about socialism on the doorstep.
The sophisticated satire in The Communist’s Daughter comes from the patent fact that Ian McDougald, a modern-day Don Quixote, denies the collapse of communism just as the Berlin Wall falls and chooses to keep his family in an ersatz reality.
“Because the 1980s was a consumerist time, Reaganism was all about tax cuts for the rich and there was a lot of America Ra Ra Ra and American military power and all those things gave the family more to be opposed to, but also made them feel more like odd ducks,” Cameron explained.
The challenge in The Communist’s Daughter was to portray the McDougalds with humor and heart and get past the veneer of little c communism to what that ideology calls for, including less inequality and more social progress for common people.
Here Cameron’s farce about the daughter of happily married Communists caught between fitting in at high school and singing the praises of socialism points up the elaborate delusions and lies many people construct to fight decades-old cultural wars. “I was excited to find the comedy in that and how we on both sides of the political spectrum stereotype people,” she insisted.
Cameron argued the lost world of Soviet Russia communism and Reaganomics is distant enough to allow her web series to play for laughs. “Trickle-down economics, who thought that was a good idea? Didn’t work out that well, didn’t it,” she insists.
Cameron adds audience reaction online to The Communist’s Daughter has been forthright, whether from the right or the left. “It can be like, ‘I’m a communist. I feel personally attacked,’ or ‘this is dangerous. This is how (communist dictatorship) starts,” she explains.
The Communist’s Daughter is executive produced by Lauren Corber of LoCo Motion Pictures, Josh Gal, Emer Connon and Cameron, with Natalie Novak of Natalie Novak Films serving as producer.