Face to face with power

Putin’s Witnesses

Vitaly Mansky

2018SwitzerlandCzech RepublicLatvia102 minColour


It is 31 December 1999 and Russia discovers its new president, Vladimir Putin, who still leads the country today. The films traces the causes and consequences of the “Successor” operation that brought Putin to power, with the lead characters Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Eltsin, the President himself, and of course the Russian nation, the silent witness of its own destiny.

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Full credit goes to this film for accurately capturing the pivotal moment when, right from the president elect’s first months, Vladimir Putin’s totalitarian aspirations emerge in the vertical power structure he creates. His decision to re-introduce the Soviet national anthem – the symbol of a policy designed to rouse nostalgia for the order, security and grandeur that the country’s collective memory still associates with the Tsar’s White empire and the Soviets’ Red order – is not only the central issue of the final third of the film, but also foreshadows the reactionary and intransigent face of today’s Putin. The filmmaker is at a loss to understand this use of the glorious past to “restore people’s confidence in the State” and dares to affirm his disagreement during a face-to-face conversation requested by Putin himself, who playfully tries to convince him of the soundness of his decision. “You should agree with me”, Putin replies with a roguish smile that dashes any hope of a critical confrontation that the filmic space had opened up.
–François-Xavier Destors (Film-documentaire.fr)

  • PRODUCTION : Studio Vertov, Golden Egg Production, Hypermarket Films
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