Did dictator Joseph Stalin's second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, shoot herself in the head, or was she murdered? What could daily life have been like with the revolutionary-turned-tyrant? These are the principle questions explored in straightforward docu. Vet helmer Slava Tsukerman mixes archival material with family stories. Results are solid, suggesting fest, educational and ancillary action over theatrical play.

Did dictator Joseph Stalin’s second wife, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, shoot herself in the head, or was she murdered? What could daily life have been like with the revolutionary-turned-tyrant? These are the principle questions explored in straightforward docu “Stalin’s Wife.” Vet helmer Slava Tsukerman, perhaps best known as the director of 1982 cult fave “Liquid Sky,” mixes archival material with family stories. Results are solid, if stylistically unspectacular, suggesting fest, educational and ancillary action over theatrical play.

“Being married to Stalin cannot have been the easiest of destinies,” observes one academic with an apparent absence of irony. A family friend some 23 years his junior, Alliluyeva’s role in history has long been cloaked in mystery and conjecture. Using interviews with historians, authors and the dictator’s surviving nieces, nephews and even an adopted son, Tsukerman patiently pieces together a timeline that sheds light on everything from Stalin’s absence at the 1917 Russian Revolution (evidence suggests they were shacked up) to Nadezhda’s shock at details of her husband’s brutal dictatorship. Tech credits are functional, with varying degrees of image quality in the interview segs. Joel Diamond’s bouncy score seems peculiarly upbeat for the material.

Stalin's Wife

U.S.- Russia

Production

A Cinetron Prods., Myrabel Studios production. (International sales: Cinetron, New York.) Produced by Slava Tsukerman, Myra Todorovsky, Nina V. Korova. Directed, written by Slava Tsukerman.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV), Tsukerman, Vlad Sladkoy, Victor Notov, Lina Tregubov, Ernst Kolobko; music, Joel Diamond. Reviewed on videocassette at Montreal World Film Festival (Documentaries of the World), Aug. 29, 2004. Running time: 105 MINS.

With

Narrators: Tom Smallwood, Susan Doukas, Mick Cribben.
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