Nearing the end of the World Cinema Documentary Competition brings us to the fourth of four films in the section that also screened at IDFA: PUTIN’S KISS, Danish director Lise Birk Pedersen’s cautionary look at youth, idealism, nationalism, and politics in Russia.
Sundance Program Description:
Masha Drokova is a rising star in Russia’s popular nationalistic youth movement, Nashi. A smart, ambitious teenager who—literally—embraced Vladimir Putin and his promise of a greater Russia, her dedication as an organizer is rewarded with a university scholarship, an apartment, and a job as a spokesperson. But her bright political future falters when she befriends a group of liberal journalists who are critical of the government, including blogger Oleg Kashin, who calls Nashi a “group of hooligans,” and she’s forced to confront the group’s dirty—even violent—tactics.
In her first feature, Danish filmmaker Lise Birk Pedersen offers a chilling view of modern Russia, its fragile—perhaps illusory—democracy, and Nashi’s alarmingly fascist tendencies (mass rallies, book burnings, “patriotic education,” and vilification of opponents). But, distinguished by an artful, cinematic aesthetic and astonishing intimacy, the film’s emotional weight lies in the evolution of Masha’s political consciousness. PUTIN’S KISS reminds us that all politics are deeply personal.
Pedersen’s film marks her feature debut after a number of primarily documentary shorts. Her producer, Helle Faber also produced previous Sundance World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS (2007) by Eva Mulvad.
Why You Should Watch:
Masha and Oleg serve as fantastic documentary subjects, representing the extreme consequences of Nashi’s tactics and ideology. Through following them, Pedersen has created an unnerving record of an organization that some may liken to the Hitler Youth, which leaves its mark on its followers, even if they choose to sever ties with it. Kino Lorber has already picked up the doc, giving larger audiences the chance to see the film after its festival run.
Check out the film’s website and Facebook page. The filmmaker speaks to Indiewire about her film here. Its trailer may be found here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.