Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Look ’13: Winter, Go Away

Ten graduate students from Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov’s Documentary Filmmaking and Theater School did what the Russian media establishment was largely incapable of.  They covered the 2012 Russian presidential election and the surrounding protests fairly and accurately.  Inseparable from their cameras over the dramatic two month span, the ten budding documentarians captured some chilling moments of “democracy at work” in Winter, Go Away (trailer here), which screens this Saturday in Astoria, Queens, as part the Museum of the Moving Image’s second annual First Look film series.

For the record, the ten filmmakers are: Elena Khoreva, Denis Klebleev, Dmitry Kubasov, Askold Kurov, Nadezhda Leonteva, Anna Moiseenko, Madina Mustafina, Sofia Rodkevich, Anton Seregin, and Alexey Zhiryakov. Remember those names (that’s a dare).  Although none of Winter’s scenes are specifically credited to a contributing filmmaker, the sheer volume of newsworthy footage speaks highly of them as a group.

Two painful realities quickly emerge in Winter.  The Putin campaign is highly organized, while the divided opposition is not. With the not-so-quasi state media firmly in his pocket, Putin probably need not have fixed the election.  Yet, it is pretty darn clear he did exactly that, based on the video recorded in poll sites on election. 

Obviously cooking the voter rolls, local election officials refuse to turn over documentation to poll watchers.  Mysterious buses show up with ostensive voters, who are a bit touchy about being filmed.  When opposition groups stage protests, the police respond with violence.  In one jaw-dropper of an incident, they literally grab an opposition spokesman in mid-sentence while he is giving an on-camera interview to a reporter.

Winter should instill shock and outrage in viewers, but let us not forget there were similar instances of election shenanigans and intimidation reported in Philadelphia later in 2012.  Indeed, the suspicious busloads of “voters” demonstrate why stricter voter ID laws would serve the interests of democracy.

Watching Winter, Go Away is a wildly frustrating experience, but the truly independent filmmakers deserve enormous credit for their journalistic integrity.  They documented actual crimes the Russian and international media has cravenly ignored.  Highly recommended for all Russophiles, Russophobes, journalism students, and media critics, Winter, Go Away screens this Saturday (1/12) during the 2013 First Look at the Museum of the Moving Image.