Marusya Syroechkovskaya: How to Save a Dead Friend

Filmed by Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya 

Edited by Qutaiba Barhamji

Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, 103 mins., 2022

With the subtitle … a message from a silenced generation here is the director’s personal statement:

”On the 24th February 2022, Putin and his government expanded his cruel and devastating war on Ukraine. 

I fled Moscow as the ensuing crackdown on opposition voices inside Russia increased to drown us all out. 

Honestly, I was scared for my wellbeing amidst the establishment of a new law against “fake” news (even calling the war in Ukraine a “war” or expressing disagreement with it now means the threat of up to 15 years in prison); people being getting arrested, beaten, and tortured (not only while protesting but one can also get arrested just standing on the street); the police coming for you at your house; those against the war finding a “Z” graffitied on their door… 

There is a website created by the so-called Committee for the Protection of National Interests with a constantly updated list of “traitors –enemies, cowards and runaways”, from whom, according to Putin, society must cleanse itself: “Any people, and even more so the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out, like a midge that accidentally flew into the mouth”. 

Putin is brilliant at isolation, gaslighting. He excels at separating and dividing. He is the poster image for an abusive relationship, but this relationship you cannot leave. I can only agree with a fellow filmmaker Erika Lust with her portrayal of Putin as a great example of a destructive and exploitative patriarchal mindset – violent and oppressive, abusing power and violating human rights in the name of greed. 

By allowing Putin to stay in power for so many years, allowing him to methodically destroy Russian civil society unchecked as he shut down independent press, and any possible horizontal ties between people all these years, we, the Russian people, fertilized the ground for this terrible war. 

We didn’t stand up for ourselves, or when we tried, our voices were not loud enough. 

However, there is no point and no use in self-pity. Our responsibility now is to not stay silent, to keep doing whatever we can to stop this violence by any possible means. And to offer a narrative to the endless stream of Russian lies and propaganda. 

There are no doubts Ukrainian people will win this war and Ukraine will rebuild itself. But I can’t see how Russia will be able to move forward. Putin has taken care of that. 

So, for the moment, I am a citizen of nowhere, somewhere, anywhere except Russia…and although this love story was born on the ground sown by an autocratic government, it is a love story that could happen wherever voices are silenced. 

March 24, 2022

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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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