2014 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE NOTORIOUS MR BOUT

notorious mr boutNext up in the World Cinema Documentary Competition: From Russia, Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s portrait of a convicted international arms smuggler, THE NOTORIOUS MR BOUT.

Sundance Program Description:

When he was arrested in 2008 in Thailand as a result of a U.S. government sting operation, the career of internationally known arms smuggler Viktor Bout came to a decisive end. Veiled by the obscurity of post-Soviet Russia, Bout had built an empire of aerial delivery so vast he was called “the merchant of death” and was even the subject of a Hollywood film. In sharp contrast to the widely known, supervillain persona, however, was another Bout: a philosophical businessman who simply enjoyed travel, his work, his family, and filming it all with his video camera.

Taking advantage of extraordinary access, including years of Bout’s personal videos and his words from prison, directors Tony Gerber and Maxim Pozdorovkin paint a portrait of one of the most enigmatic figures of our time. Moments both comical and harrowing depict Bout’s rise and fall up close and from his decidedly cheery point of view, but there is always something more sinister just outside the frame.

Some Background:
Gerber co-directed SXSW winner FULL BATTLE RATTLE (with fellow 2014 Sundance filmmaker Jesse Moss of THE OVERNIGHTERS), which received support from the Sundance Institute, and is a festival alumnus with the feature SIDE STREETS (1999) and the short SMALL TASTE OF HEAVEN (1997). Pozdorovkin is also a Sundance alum as director/producer of last year’s special jury prize winner PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER. Co-producer Innbo Shim was an associate producer of the Oscar-nominated RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, while co-producer/editor Pax Wassermann returns to Park City after producing/editing WHAT REMAINS (2006) and editing DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND (2002). Serving as executive producers are the BBC’s Nick Fraser and Kate Townsend, who had the same roles on PUSSY RIOT, with Fraser similarly credited for WHAT REMAINS, and for several other Sundance titles – most recently THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (2012), PROJECT NIM (2011), and REAGAN (2011); and Lynn Nottage, whose previous Park City connection includes participating with past projects in the Sundance Institute’s Theatre Program and writing SIDE STREETS.

Why You Should Watch:
Bout is a truly fascinating figure, at times just convincing enough in his good-natured naivete, nicely conveyed through the charmingly amateur video recordings he provides to the filmmakers. This obsessive but seemingly unfiltered documentation of his private life and business dealings suggests an alternate history – that of an entrepreneur simply taking full advantage of Russia’s embrace of capitalism – a far cry from the ruthless war-monger that his crimes might otherwise suggest. Skillfully tracing Bout’s story – both the official record as revealed by DEA surveillance and his own version – Gerber and Pozdorovkin capture competing constructions of his identity, and create their own in the process.

More Info:
For more information about the film, visit its Facebook page. As they become available, I’ll link to Gerber and Pozdorovkin’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and to their Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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