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… a long, enigmatic documentary and history lesson, tackling deep social issues in Russia and sparking curiosity around Putin’s motivations.
Zero Day, Going Clear: Scientology & The Prison of Belief, The Armstrong Lie, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Taxi to the Darkside; just a handful of documentaries directed by Alex Gibney, a documentary powerhouse whose latest film, Citizen K, explores Russian plutocrat Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Russian politics and power are touchy subjects, which Gibney does not shy away from here.
Russian businessman Khodorkovsky’s life story is told through a series of significant events and dates from his Soviet upbringing to post-Communism life as an Anti-Putin dissident. In this unwaveringly one-sided documentary, a very calm Khodorkovsky contradicts all events as he reflects on them. Following 1991, Khodorkovsky was seen as Russia’s richest man, owner of the oil company Yukos and an eventual member of the Oligarchs. His take on the creation of Russia’s ‘gangster model of capitalism’ is described in the film.
Utilising a Scorsese-like opening featuring segments from the end of the story, Gibney uses a clever and creative montage representing the key characters and moments in Khodorkovsky’s journey.
As we are being introduced to Khodorkovsky’s version of the story, we understand that the highly intelligent and decisive individual became a threat to Putin.
Gibney displays Putin as a villain, a ruthless and radical dictator through showcasing remarkable raw footage of protestors being attacked, instances where Putin was directly challenged at a public event and the culprit sedated and removed, and astonishing footage of ex-military with regards to the murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.
Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, Citizen K is a long, enigmatic documentary and history lesson, tackling deep social issues in Russia and sparking curiosity around Putin’s motivations. Is this a case of Stalin repeating itself? Gibney does not appear to have resolved the Khodorkovsky story fully, instead merely telling one side of the story. After spending a decade in jail and being exiled from Russia completely, including not being shown on Russian screens or even being able to step foot into a Russian embassy, a changed Khodorkovsky sends a message of hope that one day Russia will become the democratic country it deserves to be.