Lise Birk Pedersen: Putin’s Kiss

Of course it is a scoop to get close to the inner circles of Putin’s youth movement Nashi through Masha Drokova. And to come out with this film now, when things are moving in Russia. It deserves to be seen all over, for sure. And it is a scoop to include journalist Oleg Kashin, who was almost beaten to death after critical comments towards Putin and the movement. As well as the opposition politican Ilya Yashin.

BUT the most interesting and dangerous man in the story, the founder of Nashi, the good looking demagogue, Vasily Yakemenko, who rethorically seduces the youngsters to fight for ”a clean Russia” and who is now kind of minister of Youth, he is not really a character in the film, even if he is so much in the picture, literally. His rude behaviour towards Masha, who at a moment seems to be in love with him, is once revealed, and his approval with an evil smile of the disgusting action with the trampling on photos of opposition politicians and critical journalists is caught by the camera. Yakemenko is his master’s voice, a man of power, a manipulator. Was it not possible to get him and his ideology more into the film?

I am asking this because I have doubts about the strenght in the story as it unfolds now. The film obviously has structural, storytelling problems. It does not establish the story up front where you in surveillance camera b/w images see someone beeing beaten up without linking this to Oleg Kashin, who through a voice-off tells: This is a film about a young woman, who goes into a political movement, becomes one of their spokespersons, gets a tv show as a journalist but starts to doubt the brutality of the Nashi and begins to meet some of the opposition people.

AND makes her decision when Oleg Kashin is being attacked. We know later that he is the victim when the b/w sequence is repeated. The growing friendship between the two of them and her decision to quit Nashi comes thus as a kind of surprise. It is a pity that the film lacks flow because both young Masha and the damaged Oleg are interesting to follow. For me it seems like a problem that the film wants to be both a character driven story and a journalistic report on Nisha and the opposition.

Premiere in Danish cinemas January 19. Oleh Kashin and Ilya Yashin will attend. The film goes to Sundance and open in American cinemas after the festival.

Denmark, 82 mins

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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