Impact | Documentaries
Director Vitaly Mansky was head of the documentary department for Russia’s state TV network when the country was transitioning from the Yeltsin era into the more authoritarian regime it has become under Vladimir Putin. As such, Mansky was on the scene as Putin consolidated his power and took his first steps to dismantle Yeltsin’s democratic reforms in order to make Russia great again. Here, the now self-exiled filmmaker (he lives in Latvia) reassembles his footage from 1999-2000 to riveting and frightening effect, as he gets up close and personal with the coy, enigmatic soon-to-be dictator. With 20-20 hindsight, Mansky also questions his own complicity in Putin’s rise via a mesmerizing voiceover that alternates between melancholy and bitter irony, especially in a chilling scene where Mansky relates the fates of the campaign team that got Putin elected: many have joined the opposition, two have been assassinated and only one—Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev—remains close to the president. It is through images like that—and their subtle implications—that Mansky reveals the calculations and strategy masked by Putin’s affectless visage. Chilling, indeed.
"An extraordinarily revealing portrait of Vladimir Putin’s ascension to power… The film delivers what seems almost impossibly close access to Putin, his colleagues and outgoing president Boris Yeltsin… [Mansky’s film] is a sobering reminder of the fierce intelligence at the heart of Vladimir Putin and the fact that the immense power that he now wields was not an accident of fate."—Laurence Boyce, Screen
Best Documentary, Karlovy Vary 18