Instructive, awkwardly structured docu about the former Soviet Union's ethnic cleansing.

School is in session via “Russian Lessons,” an exceptionally instructive but awkwardly structured docu that fingers the former Soviet Union for the ethnic cleansing of neighboring Georgians, and the international news media for disregarding the evidence. Relentlessly incriminating, this hard-hitting film by Andrei Nekrasov and his recently deceased wife Olga Konskaya tells a vastly complicated geopolitical story with reasonable clarity until the midpoint, when it flashes back to the early ’90s in a belated and otherwise misguided attempt to trace the sources of said atrocities. Unreserved critical kudos will be needed for “Lessons” to educate the masses on cable.

To make a very long story short, the docu asserts that Georgia’s desire to join the West as a fully independent nation gave rise to a Russian secret war after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Wrenching images include those of dead and severely injured Georgian children, and of a jet packed full of refugees in the minutes before its being shot down by Russian fighter planes. Stronger as a journalistic expose than as a work of storytelling, the film repeatedly indicts the BBC for perpetuating the Russian army’s campaign of disinformation.

Russian Lessons

Docu - Russia-Norway

Production

A Kudos Family Distribution presentation of a Dreamscanner (Russia)/Piraya Film (Norway) production, in association with Microstudia Group. (International sales: Kudos, Stavanger, Norway.) Produced by Torstein Grude, Olga Konskaya. Executive producers, Giorgi Arveladze, Andrei Nekrasov. Directed, written by Andrei Nekrasov, Olga Konskaya.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Trond Tonde, Davit Asatiani, Varlam Karchkhadze, Levan Gogniashvili, Ainis Kupche; editors, Nekrasov, Konskaya, Erik Andersson; music, Peter Scartabello; production designer, Sarah Horton. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema, competing), Jan. 27, 2010. Russian, Georgian dialogue. Running time: 116 MIN.

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