"Tuschi's film is potentially a document of high political and moral moment, one that could embarrass Russia's ruling clique"
THE NEW YORKER
FEBRUARY 8, 2011
"KHODORKOVSKY" AND THE BERLIN WALL
by Richard Brody
There's something that somebody doesn't want someone to see at the Berlin Film Festival: the film by Cyril Tuschi about the imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In the Guardian, Helen Pidd and Miriam Elder report on the theft, from Tuschi's Berlin office, of the final cut of the film, which is called "Khodorkovsky" and is scheduled to première at the festival next Monday. The director's representative told them that it was the second time that footage from the film—which includes interviews with Khodorkovsky himself as well as with his family—has been stolen. (The Berlin police are still conducting their investigation and have made no arrests.) Here's what Tuschi told the journalists:
"Once we were quite openly threatened. We were in Siberia on a train between Novosibirsk and Chita, where Khodorkovsky was in jail. Three young men attacked us. They were the regional representatives of the KGB. They knew exactly who we were and what we were doing there. It was very scary."
David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, wrote in a recent Comment that Khodorkovsky has been imprisoned since 2003, shortly after he "started funding human-rights groups, opposition political parties, and a charity called Open Russia" and boldly questioned Vladimir Putin on television. He called the trials of Khodorkovsky "absurdist acts of injustice no more respectable than the railroading of Josef Brodsky."
Tuschi's film, which I haven't seen, is potentially a document of high political and moral moment, one that could embarrass Russia's ruling clique with revelations of official misdeeds and abuses. I was all prepared to make a modest proposal and suggest that, if the theft should render the film unavailable for its première, Tuschi and his associates might take the step made famous in "Be Kind Rewind": they could "swede" their documentary and simply recount, on camera (or perhaps onstage, for an event that would be recorded and transmitted worldwide), the information they uncovered in the course of their research. But the article in the Guardian has a happy ending: "The film will still be premiered next week as Tuschi had already sent a copy to the Berlin film festival, said a spokeswoman for his distribution company." I hope that there's also a copy en route to New York, too.
Richard Brody is the movies editor for Goings On About Town and the author of "Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard."
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