Wednesday, 1 May 2013

WINTER, GO AWAY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Klymkiw HOT DOCS 2013 HOT PICK

Winter, Go Away (2013) ***1/2
Producer: Marina Razbezhkina
Dir: Sofia Rodkevich, Anton Seregin, Madina Mustafina, Elena Khoreva, Anna Moiseenko, Dmitry Kubasov, Askold Kurov, Nadezhda Leonteva, Alexey Zhirayakov, Denis Klebleev

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Vladimir Putin is evil. He is the worst thing to happen to Russian since the Butcher Stalin. He is potentially another Hitler. Or at the very least, Stalin. And believe me, that's bad enough since Putin believes in nothing but himself and his cronies. He has no beliefs save for the fake sense of nationalism he uses as a public relations ploy to keep himself in power. Oh, actually, I erred somewhat in that last statement. He believes in brute force and open corruption.

This very cool and brilliantly edited documentary comes to us courtesy of Producer Marina Razbezhkina who, for my money, directed one of the genuinely great Russian films of the past twenty-or-so years - the exquisite and poetic avant-garde drama Harvest Time, 2004's ode to and very odd reworking of Dovzhenko's immortal farm collective celebration Zemlya.

Assembling 10 filmmakers to shoot events for the two months preceding Putin's third re-election, Winter, Go Away is not only a stunning portrait of a Russia ideologically and politically sliced in half with two diametrically opposed forces, but it's a harrowing up close and in your face exposé of a police state. If you didn't know or believe it before, the film makes it clear that all those whom Putin has bought and paid for to swing the election in his favour are utter filth. It's the worst Soviet style of wrapping peacekeepers and bureaucrats around one's finger.

The film's "balanced" portrait clearly demonstrates how those who believe in Putin seem as deluded as the Christian Right Wing in the United States. That said, we also see how splintered and disorganized the anti-Putin camp is - all their hearts are in the right place, but none of their bodies and minds come together at the right time.

Moreover the one thing that simply cannot be denied is the content during numerous sequences involving a near-litany of infuriating, flagrant disregard for basic human rights and free expression. With this, the filmmakers expose their agenda quite openly and in fact, the approach taken with the whole film is not unlike the kind of "balanced" portraiture the pro-Putin camp employs (albeit with far more money and power behind it than those who are against him). As far as I'm concerned, this is fine - the film, in spite of ten directors, has a powerful, cohesive and forceful point of view.

The movie on paper might sound like a patchwork quilt, but editor Yuri Geddert fashions a painful and frustrating narrative wherein Putin's win seems like a done deal from the beginning. And yet, we are introuced to so many brave and committed young voters who exude a collective belief system in a Russia free of the yoke of Putin's gangsterism. Just as maddening, however, is how disparate they all seem, but what unites the anti-Putin demonstrators and activists - at least within the context of the film - is seeing their hopes dashed as they are over and over again are beaten and incarcerated by policemen who care only about the status quo and their own, no doubt, healthy pay-offs to keep the peace - Putin Style.

By the time we get to election day, the flagrant abuses multiply exponentially and Putin will once more reign supreme. It's not especially hopeful, but the pure "fuck you" attitude of Russia's youth is something to embrace and champion,

"Winter, Go Away" is playing at the Hot Docs 2013 Film Festival. For tickets and showtimes visit the Hot Docs website HERE. The film is preceded by a short satirical piece entitled "Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration" which, at just under ten minutes is about five minutes too long to achieve the effect it's trying for.