Activists on the down-low in Winter, Go Away!
Askold Kurov’s documentary Winter, Go Away!, chronicling the protest movement against Vladimir Putin around the last Russian election, screens tonight as part of Concordia’s Cinema Politica series. It’s a film that should be of interest to Montreal’s hordes of protest participants, Russophiles, political junkies and documentary fans in general.
Without any explanatory voice-over or text, Kurov jumps right into a snappily paced, multifaceted portrait of the anti-Putin movement, from street activists to opposition politicians to journalists. The lack of context means that people lacking a familiarity with the situation may find themselves having to concentrate to keep up, but it’s not an obscurity for insiders only; if you pay attention, you can figure out what’s going on, and the names of the various individuals and organizations involved are secondary to the general issues anyway.
The central issue is, of course, the stifling of democracy, and the film has several glaring examples of it. Election officials disappear or hide when questioned about details by the media; an activist is carted off into a police van while speaking to reporters; an opposition politician is literally pulled off his pedestal by police in the middle of a speech. And it’s all captured on video; some scenes have so many photographers that the images become an avant-garde tapestry of camera flashes.
Possibly the film’s most exciting documentary “get” is the up-close footage of Pussy Riot’s infamous performance at an Orthodox church. The iconic status this performance has taken on masks some details that are bluntly on display here: the young women performed for only a couple of minutes before being rushed off the “stage,” and the worst thing you could say about their material is that it’s charmingly juvenile. We already knew this, but the footage makes it explicit: the fact that some of the members are doing serious jail time for this is as absurd as it is disturbing.
But in spite of all the documentation, it would seem that Putin’s strategies have been effective. The film’s examples of pro-Putin sentiments point to an authoritarian streak among the people that’s both sinister and naïve. Then again, looking at our own authoritarian government, its electoral shenanigans and its continuing popularity with a complacent populace, who are we to judge?
At any rate, though a non-Russian audience may miss a lot of the subtleties, the film’s documentation of history unfolding in real time is exciting to watch.
Winter, Go Away! screens tonight, Monday March 4, as part of Concordia’s Cinema Politica series, with director Askold Kurov in attendance. Room H-110, 1455 Maisonneuve W., 7 p.m., suggested donation $2-5