×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Putin’s Kiss

Proving it pays to stick with a docu subject for the long haul, "Putin's Kiss" tracks four years in the life of a firebrand member of Russia's ultranationalist Nashi movement who eventually has a Damascene conversion of sorts.

With:
With: Masha Drokova, Oleg Kashin, Irina Drokova, Aleksandr Drokov, Valentina Kulneva, Victor Kulnev, Jenya Shevchenko, Viktoria Drokova, Ilya Yashin, Ilya Azar, Vasily Yakemenko, Gleb Kraynik, Sergey Mikaev, Anton Smirnov, Oleg Sokolov, Shushkevich Vitaly, Liza Menschikova, Evgeniya Milova. (Russian dialogue)

Proving it pays to stick with a docu subject for the long haul, “Putin’s Kiss” tracks four years in the life of a firebrand member of Russia’s ultranationalist Nashi movement who eventually has a Damascene conversion of sorts. Danish helmer Lise Birk Pedersen’s debut feature has structural flaws, and auds might wonder how much the presence of her crew affected some of the events recorded, but the pic still tells a riveting story about contempo Russia’s darkest side. Since its IDFA premiere, the docu has been kissed with Sundance selection, and should travel far, especially in the wake of growing social unrest after Russia’s recent election.

Born in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, Masha Drokova was drawn as a teenager to Nashi, a cult-of-personality youth movement started by Vasily Yakemenko in 2005 that pledges unswerving support for President Vladimir Putin and all his policies. Although nominally “anti-fascist” and pledged to organizing nonviolent protest marches and the like, the organization not so covertly promulgates racist views and encourages its members (estimated to number around 120,000) to harass and attack “enemies of the state,” such as journalists who have criticized Putin’s regime or rival political parties. Members of Nashi have been linked to brutal attacks on such enemies.

Drokova achieved nationwide fame for being filmed kissing Putin at a rally, and quickly ascended the ranks of Nashi, becoming a spokesperson for what some have likened to the Hitler Youth movement. Photogenic and seemingly rational, she was willing to engage in TV debates with anti-Putinists, such as journalist Oleg Kashin, in order to defend her views and encourage more recruits.

But when she loses an internal election for Nashi’s leadership, Drokova begins to have doubts about her commitment to Nashi, and is cruelly belittled by Vasily Yakemenko (now promoted to Putin’s Minister of Youth) at a rally, a sequence helmer Pedersen was uncannily lucky to catch oncamera. Drokova starts to build tentative friendships with Nashi critics, although she insists on defending the organization. However, when Kashin is brutally beaten by “unknown perpetrators,” Masha starts to have a genuine change of heart.

Pic’s strongest suit is that its subjects are all such strong, vivid characters, particularly Drokova, who in the early going, recalls Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick from “Election” with her prim schoolgirl outfits and ruthless ambition. But by the end, she becomes more admirable as she sticks to her principles no matter the cost. Still, some might have doubts about her sincerity, especially since scenes in which she has heart-to-heart talks with two of her sisters seem so obviously staged for the docu’s benefit. Indeed, there’s something a little too good to be true about the narrative’s neat trajectory.

Kiss” could benefit by having some rough edges smoothed out, such as the clumsy way it foreshadows that something awful happened to Kashin, but then takes half an hour to reveal what it was. Otherwise, tech credits are OK, if a bit cheesy in a smallscreen sort of way. It will be interesting to see whether the pic is shown on Russian turf at all, especially since the recent docu “Khodorkovsky” (about someone Nashi would certainly describe as an “enemy of the state”) has been confined to just one cinema in Moscow.

Putin's Kiss

Denmark

Production: A Monday Prod. production in association with Made in Copenhagen, in co-production with DR, ITVS Intl., with the support of the Danish Film Institute, Nordic Film & TV Fund, NRK, UR, YLE, Yes-DBS, VPRO. (International sales: DR Intl., Copenhagen.) Produced by Helle Faber. Executive producer, Martin Dalgaard. Directed by Lise Birk Pedersen.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, HD), Lars Skree; editors, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Steen Johannessen; music, Tobias Hylander; music supervisor, Peter Albrechtsen; sound designer, Peter Albrechtsen; second unit camera, Constantin Postnikov, Maxim Chernyaev, Dmitri Rudakov; Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (competing), Nov, 20, 2011. (Also in Sundance Film Festival -- World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Masha Drokova, Oleg Kashin, Irina Drokova, Aleksandr Drokov, Valentina Kulneva, Victor Kulnev, Jenya Shevchenko, Viktoria Drokova, Ilya Yashin, Ilya Azar, Vasily Yakemenko, Gleb Kraynik, Sergey Mikaev, Anton Smirnov, Oleg Sokolov, Shushkevich Vitaly, Liza Menschikova, Evgeniya Milova. (Russian dialogue)

More Film

  • Celebrities Sound Off on 2018

    Celebrities Pick Their Favorite Movies and TV Shows of 2018

    Still looking for the latest and greatest movie, TV series or book to finish before the year is out? Why not ask the folks behind Hollywood’s favorite hits, what they’re reading and viewing this 2018. We reached out to the stars and creators behind the things you love (including Barry Jenkins, Steven Canals and Dan Levy)  to [...]

  • Kate Winslet Saoirse Ronan

    Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan to Star in Fossil Hunter Movie 'Ammonite'

    Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan are starring in the independent historical drama “Ammonite,” a story inspired by the life of fossil hunter Mary Anning. The story is set in 1840s England, when Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever. Anning is [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Salads for two.jpg

    Palm Springs Cuisine Scene: Latest Places to Dine in the Desert

    Desert playgrounds of the Coachella Velley beckon attendees of the upcoming Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival, getting under way Jan. 3. Veteran festgoers will notice some changes around town: the Hard Rock Hotel is again the Hotel Zoso, the Camelot Theaters now function under the auspices of the Palm Springs Cultural Center and there are [...]

  • Mary Poppins 1964

    P.L. Travers' Efforts to Adapt 'Mary Poppins' for Film, TV Were Often Less Than Jolly

    Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” a sequel decades in the making, opens Dec. 19. Even before the 1964 original, Hollywood made several attempts to adapt P.L. Travers’ books, with Samuel Goldwyn and Katharine Hepburn among those involved in the chase. But aside from a one-hour 1949 CBS television version, they all hit a dead-end. The first [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content