Thursday, October 23, 2008

Window on Eurasia: No Russian Could Make a Film about Putin like Oliver Stone’s ‘W’ about Bush

aul Goble

Vienna, October 23 – Oliver Stone’s new movie “W” about the life and times of President George W. Bush has prompted Russians to ask whether any director in their country would dare make a similar film about Vladimir Putin. The answer most surveyed by one paper gave was a resounding “no” – unless of course the Russian leader gave his permission.
In fact, “Moskovsky komsomolets” reports, a film called “Kiss Not for the Press” appears to be about Putin – its lead, like Putin, is a chekist who loves judo, falls in love with a stewardess, works in St. Petersburg, and then goes to Moscow – but thosPe involved in its production deny the link (
The paper then asked several figures in the Russian film industry whether they would be willing to make a film about Putin in much the same way that Stone has done about the incumbent American president. Producer Sergey Selyanov said he would not be inclined to do so because “in Russia there have been still too few presidents.”
In the future, such a film might be possible, but he continued, “it would be necessary to ask for the permission of the president himself.” If the idea for a film of this kind was good, Selyanov said, he would be prepared to ask Putin for his clearance, but he noted that he personally “would never agree to the making a film about himself.”
Another Russian film industry leader said that “in Russia there is no Oliver Stone;” there are only directors prepared to make “romantic” films about a judoist and a stewardess. If a Russian Stone appeared, the question would inevitably arise: Would he make money given the Russian audience or would be declared “a traitor to the Motherland” for what he had done?
And yet a third, Aleksandr Minkin, noted that “over the course of the entire history of the USSR and Russian Federation,” there was only one leader – Boris Yeltsin – who was routinely criticized or made fun of in the public media. But now that period is “officially called ‘the wild 1990s,’” and nothing like that is to be repeated.
Consequently, he told the Moscow newspaper, in thinking about what movies Russian producers and directors might make about Putin, it was better to think about Soviet filmmakers rather than people like Oliver Stone and to recognize that only certain kinds of heroic films would be acceptable. Among them, he said, might be the following:

• “Putin – Our Military Glory!” in which bearded mountaineers march along Putin Prospekt in the Chechen capital of Grozny;

• “Putin – Our Pride and Achievement” in which Putin is piloting a fighter plane and then serving as a bombardier; and

• “Working and Triumphing with Putin” in which Putin uses a jet to pursue the fleeing Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili. ”

Of course, Minkin said, even these films might get their authors in trouble, and an all points bulletin could be put out by the authorities for their arrest.
The “Moskovsky komsomolets” article is especially interesting because it shows that Russians are reacting to Oliver Stone’s move in a very different way than many Americans might expect. Instead of viewing it as one more piece of evidence of the evils of the United States, some Russians are responding by asking why they can’t do the same thing Stone did.
To the extent that such questions continue to echo through the Russian elite, that could easily mean that the greatest political contribution Oliver Stone will have made with his latest film is not to the people of the United States but to the people of Russia, who by asking the questions his movie has provoked may take steps that will change their country for the better.

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