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Putin’s Witnesses

Documentary Film
Czech Republic,
107 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Natalya Manskaya, Gabriela Bussmann, Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda
Vitaly Mansky
Kārlis Auzāns
Gunta Ikere
Vitaly Mansky
Anrijs Krenbergs
“The state is like a garden,” says Putin’s old form teacher’s husband, “you have to destroy the weed so that something worthwhile grows.” “We’ll do just that,” the lifetime president-to-be answers almost shyly and leaves his teacher’s flat, which he visited to shoot an advertising clip directed by Vitaly Mansky who, as the country’s leading documentary filmmaker, was allowed to follow and record the campaign. After 18 years of concrete rule by the little man with the strong hands, the long-emigrated director looks back at the fateful year of 2000 and reviews his footage. What he discovers is breathtaking and has the emotionalising power of an almost intimate home video. The Mansky family already dread the new Mao while Yeltsin’s clan is jubilant at first and ex-Tsar Boris even sees his successor Vladimir as the guarantee of real media freedom –later he disgustedly calls the pivotal turn-back “krasnenko” (reddish). Putin himself talks about reasons of state and an autocratic life which he intends to avoid at all costs. Finally, the question whether it was right to reanimate the old Soviet hymn with quasi new lyrics becomes a bone of contention in the duel Putin vs. Mansky. The sad conclusion is that nobody was just a “witness”. Everybody played a part in the many compromises made in hopes of a “better life.”

Barbara Wurm