Human Rights Film Festival: Putin’s Kiss
Unlike many other film festivals that occur throughout the year, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF) is an independent organisation, whose primary aim is to highlight the injustice and inequality that occurs all over the world, through the medium of film. One country which Human Rights Watch has done extensive work in is Russia and following the tagline “What happens when your enemies become your friends?” Putin’s Kiss is one film attempting to highlight the extensive political corruption which, in some ways, is unique to the country.
Winner of the Best World Cinema Documentary at this year’s Sundance Festival, the film, shot and directed by Dane Lise Birk Pedersen, follows 19-year-old Masha and her involvement with the political youth movement called Nashi.
Following the collapse of communism and the introduction of a new democratic capitalist system, senior officials within the Russian government set up the youth group Nashi movement in an attempt to promote capitalism and, of course, Putin’s government. However, the Nashi do not take criticisms of their organisation lightly and following an attack on journalist (and friend to Masha) Oleg Kashin, for criticising the group, Masha must choose where her true loyalties lie.
Masha explicitly believes that Nashi is Russia’s only hope of becoming the world’s new superpower and this is evident throughout the first half of the documentary. Her indoctrination into the movement is illustrated by her wish to appear on any media outlet possible to promote and glorify the Nashi organization. Her constant references to the opposition parties as “enemies” reinforces the power and control the Russian government have over their young supporters.
The story is so compelling that the narrative of the documentary almost plays out like a fictional story with Masha’s view on the group she has grown up with since a young age, changing radically as the documentary progresses. Apart from Masha, most of the information we get on the Nashi is through speeches at rallies and opinions from members of the opposition. This leaves little room for right of reply from Nashi members, which gives the documentary a hint of bias.
Having said that, Putin’s Kiss is an informative and interesting expose on a movement that has many similarities to the Nazi Youth and other fascist groups. On the surface, they seem to be positive organisations promoting the empowerment of the youth, but underneath is something decidedly sinister.
Watch the trailer for Putin’s Kiss here