×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Bitter Taste of Freedom

Profoundly moving, politically provocative and apt to provoke moral outrage in anyone short of Vladimir Putin, "A Bitter Taste of Freedom" is acclaimed documentarian Maria Goldovskaya's portrait of her longtime friend Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Russian journalist whose still-unsolved 2006 murder remains a symbol of the national corruption she tried to expose.

With:
With: Anna Politkovskaya, Mihkail Gorbachev, Karinna Moskalenko, Alla Bossart. (Russian dialogue)

Profoundly moving, politically provocative and apt to provoke moral outrage in anyone short of Vladimir Putin, “A Bitter Taste of Freedom” is acclaimed documentarian Maria Goldovskaya’s portrait of her longtime friend Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Russian journalist whose still-unsolved 2006 murder remains a symbol of the national corruption she tried to expose. Goldovskaya does not concern herself with the killing as much as with Politkovskaya’s character and the conflicts in Chechnya she covered so doggedly, presumably leading to her death. Festival play and likely ecstatic word of mouth should lead to a specialty run beyond the pic’s Oscar-qualifying DocuWeeks berth.

Pic reps a very personal follow-up to Goldovskaya’s 1991 docu “A Taste of Freedom,” in which Politkovskaya and her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Russian TV personality Sasha, were subjects. That film was made during Russia’s honeymoon with democracy; that things haven’t quite worked out is clear from the title of the new pic, which was originally intended to be a sequel set in the post-Putin era.

In preparation for a film that would have reassessed the course of Russian history since the fall of communism, Goldovskaya interviewed Politkovskaya extensively, yielding the powerful, poignant conversations that are at the heart of “A Bitter Taste of Freedom.” Politkovskaya, whose public persona seemed rather severe (especially to Westerners who saw her only in still photographs), is heartbreakingly lovely here, not just physically, but artistically: From the resolve she brings to her work, she seems to know she’s sealing her own fate.

As explained by several of the late journalist’s colleagues, Politkovskaya was not a naturally brave woman, which somehow makes her all the braver. She approached her trips to Chechnya (notably, during the Second Chechnyan War) with enormous fear, one friend says. But she went all the same, because — as an old ally, Mihkail Gorbachev, remembers somewhat sadly — she was an idealist, albeit one who seemed to mask her ideals beneath a stern exterior. Through their friendship and her camera, Goldovskaya penetrates that businesslike exterior, and the Politkovskaya she uncovers is radiant, if sometimes alarmingly resigned to her country’s descent into gangsterism.

What both Politkovskaya and Goldovskaya (who currently teaches at UCLA) saw as the degeneracy of the Putin regime is exemplified by two notorious events: the so-called Nord-Ost siege of 2002, in which 170 people died after Russian authorities pumped deadly gas into a theater that had been taken over by Chechen separatists, and the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis, which ended when Russian security forces stormed the school; more than 300 people died, including nearly 200 children. Putin used both tragedies as an excuse to crack down on Chechnya and intensify his authoritarian rule at home.

The shooting of Politkovskaya wasn’t the first attempt on her life. En route to help negotiate at Beslan, she was poisoned aboard an airplane; Goldovskaya’s interview with her friend on a hospital gurney — who else could have gotten such footage? — is just one of the remarkable sequences offering a privileged glimpse into the life of a woman who becomes increasingly mythic, even as the circumstances of her death remain unresolved.

Production values are mixed, footage having been gathered from a variety of sources, including homemovies and TV news.

A Bitter Taste of Freedom

Production: A Goldfilms and Dixit Intl. presentation. (International sales: the Yellow Affair, Stockholm.) Produced by Marina Goldovskaya, Malcolm Dixelius. Directed, written by Marina Goldovskaya.

Crew: Camera (color), Goldovskaya; editor, Dmitry Sushev; music, Bruce Hanifan; sound designer, Hanifan. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Aug. 11, 2011. (In DocuWeeks.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With: With: Anna Politkovskaya, Mihkail Gorbachev, Karinna Moskalenko, Alla Bossart. (Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content