Monday, November 28, 2022

Anastasia, on Paramount+

Putin's MO is to make the most vulnerable in his country suffer for the perceived slights of others. In retribution for the Magnitsky Act, Putin banned all American adoptions of Russian orphans, including those already in process, even though Russia has one of the world’s lowest adoption rates. Anastasia Shevchenko’s oldest daughter Alina was also a victim of Putin’s vengeful pettiness, because of her mother’s political activism (officially proclaimed “undesirable”). Shevchenko was sentenced to two years house arrest and strictly prevented from visiting the severely disabled Alina as her health declined in a Russian hospital. Finally at liberty, Shevchenko travels with her family to scatter Alina’s ashes in Sarah McCarthy’s short documentary, Anastasia, which premieres tomorrow on Paramount+.

Presumably, McCarthy would agree with the assertion Alina and the Russian orphans denied the opportunity of U.S. adoption are all innocent collateral victims of Putin’s wrath, since she also helmed
The Dark Matter of Love, which documented the plight of so-called “Pipeline Babies,” whose American adoptions were canceled, despite being well into the process. It is a subject you should raise with any ostensibly “pro-family” politician who voices support for Putin. In Shevchenko’s case, she dearly wished to visit Alina, but the government forbade it—and then pilloried her in the state media for choosing politics over her daughter.

After two years, Shevchenko, her young son Misha, teen daughter Vlada, and her own mother, can now travel to disburse Alina’s ashes. They cannot say so openly, but in addition to saying goodbye to Alina, they will also be saying goodbye to Russia. Post-McCarthy’s filming, Shevchenko is now living in Lithuania, having been branded a “fugitive from justice” by the Russian authorities.

It is impossible to avoid the grim realities of Putin’s oppression when making a film about Shevchenko, but McCarthy focuses very much on the personal aspects of her life. It is clear the recent years have taken a toll on her relationship with Vlada. However, the film leaves viewers hopeful they will finally have the time and space to heal.

In fact, the ending of the film is unusually poetic for a documentary. It is only twenty-seven minutes, but it is all quite poignant. If nothing else, it makes it crystal clear how damaging Putin has been to Russia’s families. Highly recommended,
Anastasia starts streaming tomorrow (11/29) on Paramount+.