Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sundance Films: Russian Lessons

Title: Russian Lessons
Director: Andrei Nekrasov, Olga Konskaya

Summary: Andrei Nekrasov, with directing partner Olga Konskaya, returns to Sundance with a formidable documentary that energetically delves into the violent and bewildering conflicts in the Caucasus, with Russia pitted against the former Soviet state of Georgia, and involving Georgia’s troubled regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Boldly visiting conflict zones rarely filmed, the codirectors uncover damning evidence of Russian violence, incidents whose few recorded images are often reprocessed in mass-media reports as evidence of other people’s crimes (often, supposedly, residents of Georgia). Parsing the complex history of the region, as well as oversimplified cultural assumptions about internecine ethnic conflicts, Nekrasov and Konskaya construct a portrait of a cynical Russia willing to engage in secret wars and manufacture conflicts and media reports simply to consolidate power. With immediacy and passion, but also with a commanding mastery of film form, their documentary dignifies the struggles of powerless people and holds a sobering mirror up to a superpower and its media (Sundance).

Thoughts: certainly a pro-Georgia political documentary, Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya have certainly tried to develop a film to stir people to action... or at least awareness. Unfortunately, it will be hard for many outside of this region to care enough to even bring themselves to watch this documentary. This is a cautionary tale for filmmakers, subjects that are vitally important to you may be totally irrelevant to the masses. Now that isn't to say this will be a bad documentary, it's just a reminder to not assume audiences will care about your film. Is Russian Lessons worth watching? Perhaps, but it depends on their talent.

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