Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Putin's Kiss": a sobering look at Russian Youth. relevant given the climate there now

Putin’s Kiss” (2011), by Danish director Lise Birk Pedersen and in Russian with subtitles, is another docudrama that seems timely now given Valdimir Putin’s controversy in running Russia, with the issues over the Olympics, security, and the anti-gay propaganda law.
Masha, at age 19, becomes the spokesperson for Nashi, the Russian youth organization, sometime after she got a peck on the cheek from the president. She had been active with the group since age 15.
She is gung ho, as the group is associated with right-wing nationalistic groups that sees the world in terms of friends and enemies of Russia, and socializes people into collective experience.  At one point, she criticizes a novelist when she learns that the novelist is gay, because she sees homosexuality as offensive to the interest of the country.  That certainly plays into the sentiment of the current anti-gay propaganda law, that seems predicated on the crude notion that homosexuals compromise a group’s ability to reproduce its population.
She learns about blogger and journalist Oleg Kashin, who is critical of the collective nature of Russian nationalism and its antagonism to individual rights, much as Soviet communism was, although Kashin also draws a comparison to the Hitler Youth of WWII.  (In fact, there was a copy of “Education for Death” by Gregor Ziermer in our home.  It became the basis of Walt Disney’s short film below).
Indeed, there are scenes at the youth summer camp, with all the changing and in-step singing, that are rather frightening.  Critics point out that Russians are losing their young people to uniform demagoguery, and that Masha herself is an “old lady” at the age of 20.
When Oleg is brutally beaten by forces possibly associated with the Nashi, or at least with Putin, and survives, Masha has to rethink her loyalties.

Opposition leader Garry Kasparov, a world chess champion, is presented, and the "us v. them" mentality of the Nashi shows as they characterize him as a "ground pawn".  (See my review of Kasparov's book "How Life Imitates Chess" Sept. 27, 2007 on the Books blog.)
The film has a great line, "There are no bad nations, only bad people." 

The link for the film (Sundance and Netflix, and Danish Monday) is here.

The 10-minute Disney film is “Education for Death: the Making of the Nazi” (1943), on YouTube here
The film depicts how Nazi families were expected to bear many children, and how the state took away and killed the unfit, and taught the kids to look down on others who didn’t make it in their world.  Rather frightening stuff.  

Wikipedia attribution link for satellite image of Moscow. 

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