On rejecting a Putin covenant

Where Khodorkovsky, in the end, surrenders to the pressure and signs a deal with Putin, Nemtsov is without compromise. We know the result.

My Friend Boris Nemtsov (Zosya Rodkevich, 2016)

Whilst Eric Bergkraut puts the audience in Khodorkovsky’s place, in the film My friend Boris Nemtsov (2015) we identify with its young Russian director Zosya Rodkevich – both as film maker and object of desire for the female-loving politician.

The Nemtsov assassination on 27 February 2015, at the bridge in front of the Kremlin, frames the film. We are introduced to the circumstances surrounding Nemtsov’s death through the naive questions and reflections of a bright Russian girl sitting on her father’s shoulders during the commemorative march across the fateful bridge.

Finally, we are part of the funeral, Nemtsov in an open casket surrounded by grieving family, friends and supporters. The contrast between Nemtsov’s dead body and the lively persona we got to know through Rodkevich’s personal portrait is immense.

We follow Rodkevich’s camera lens from the moment she is introduced to Nemtsov at the station prior to a train journey. The director’s prologue states that as a 22-year old journalist she applied to work on a film project about Nemtsov. All her prejudices about a narcissistic, conservative politician disappeared. An obviously enamoured and funny Nemtsov invites her to share his compartment alone – initiating the flirt which carries the film.

Alone with Nemtsov in his compartment, Rodkevich films him as he sleepily mumbles his general views on democratic struggle and life. At Nemtsov’s sparse Moscow flat, his wife complains that they have lived there eight years, and that their bed is broken. Nemtsov, wearing only his underpants, defends himself that the opposition should not own much out of consideration for personal freedom. During a training session at a gym, he explains to the young Rodkevich about his four children by three mothers, about his support and acceptance of them all, and his love of women. We also follow Nemtsov out on the town in Jaroslavl, ending up with him sleeping in a bed next to a cigarette-smoking lover. Rodkevich’s film enables us great closeness with Nemtsov through the viewpoint of the many women he desired.

In another scene, further into the film, the young, female film maker is alone with Nemtsov in a lift when he steals a kiss despite her mild objections. We, as the audience, are, along with the camera, squeezed into Nemtsov’s chest. What seems like sexual harassment by Nemtsov, becomes, in Rodkevich’s Russian presentation, an expression of the human and charming aspects to the Russian opposition politician. Nemtsov is reminiscent of the Russian poet laureate Aleksander Pusjkin, who was also a freedom-loving oppositional and a notorious flirt. We trail the politician Nemtsov around Russia; during the large anti-war demonstration in Moscow on 21 September which was led by Nemtsov, and during the trial of the blogger and politician Aleksej Navalny. We are given an insight into Nemtsov’s packed schedule of interviews, handing out fliers at stands, and smaller meetings with pensioners in the lead up to the regional 2013 elections in Jaroslavl. Rodkevich’s focus remains first and foremost Nemtsov’s charismatic personality and flirting, his friendship with the blogger Navalny, the PR-advisor and politician Ilya Yashin and the rest of the youthful environment that surrounds him. During a TV-interview on the streets of Jaroslav, Nemtsov is disrupted by Yashin. He thinks Nemtsov is too adamant in his criticism of the regime and the persecution of the regime critics, and that this will not make it through the censorship. This limitation of the most politically inflamed issues seems to also impact on Rodkevich’s presentation and angle.

Nemtsov’s patriotism, however, does surface: When the invitation to Thatcher’s funeral clashes with the Navalny trial, Nemtsov opts for the latter, and jokes that this is a test of his patriotism. During a TV-interview which Rodkevich films from the studio, Nemtsov explains that he dreams that his children will never wish to leave Russia.

During an interview in Siberia, Nemtsov points to the fact that although life has improved under Putin, it has also become more revolting. The majority of Putin supporters emphasises the former – whilst the middle classes in the cities who react and oppose, are more concerned with the latter, analyses Nemtsov.

Whereas Khodorkovsky undergoes a religious repentance in captivity and in the end crawls to the cross, Nemtsov laughs and flirts his way through Rodkevich’s portrait of him, like a superb Pusjkin of a reinstated Russian Tsardom of the 21. Century. Where Khodorkovsky, in the end, surrenders to the pressure and signs a deal with Putin, Nemtsov is without compromise. We know the result.

The article is originally from moderntimes.online.

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starší články

29. 10. 2016

from current issue:

New releaseShooting About KunderaDocumentarian Miloslav Šmídmajer describes the process of making a documentary about Milan Kundera with the working title “Milan Kundera: From the Joke to Insignificance.” Miloslav ŠmídmajerThemeNest in the bedroomPeter Hames, well-known British film historian and author of the book The Czechoslovak New Wave sent his remembrance to Karel Vachek to our magazine.Peter HamesThemeNever stop laughingPaolo Benzi, the Italian film producer and founder of the independent film production company Okta Film, describes for dok.revue how he met famous Czech documentary filmmaker Karel Vachek, who passed away last year. Paolo Benzi is also the main tutor of the Emerging producers in Ji.hlava IDFF.Paolo BenziThemeBehold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightenedIn this English issue of dok.revue we have collected some remembrances to Karel Vachek, the respected Czech documentarist who died in December 2020 at the age of 80. One of the contributors is Olaf Möller, a well-known film theorist and critic collaborating with many renowned film magazines (Film Comment or Sight & Sound), film museums and festivals (e.g. Il Cinema Ritrovato or International Film Festival Rotterdam).Olaf MöllerThemeEvery human being should get to wear comfy shoesThe Czech documentarist Karel Vachek was a chairperson of the jury at Yamagata international documentary film festival (YIDFF) in 2009. The board member of YIDFF and the former director of this festival, Asako Fujioka, has a remembrance of him smoking his pipe and going to the mountains with Japanese poet and filmmaker Yoshimasu Gozo to recite poetry to the skies.Asako FujiokaThemeLike the dog on the beach...American film historian Alice Lovejoy writes her remembrance of Karel Vachek, the remarkable Czech documentarist to whom we dedicate this English issue of dok.revue.Alice LovejoySportPandemic as an opportunityJi.hlava's Emerging Producers discuss the opportunity that can emerge from crisisSteve RickinsonInterviewThe times of lifelong careers are overAn interview with documentarian Jindřich Andrš, whose film A New Shift won the Czech competition section Czech Joy at Ji.hlava IDFF2020.Vojtěch KočárníkInterviewGoing to the Polish Turf with Our Own TeamInterview with documentary filmmakers Filip Remunda and Vít Klusák about their latest joint film project Once Upon a Time in Poland that shows how religion and faith are misused in contemporary Poland for mass manipulation and political purposes. The film‘s Czech premiere was held as part of the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival 2020.Kamila BoháčkováIntroductionDok.revue 1.21This issue is dedicated to the doyen of Czech documentary filmmaking Karel VachekKamila Boháčková