Gorbachev. Heaven, directed by Vitaly Mansky, was shortlisted for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA), known as the “Asian Oscars,” in the category of Best Documentary Feature Film. [The Best Documentary Feature Film award was presented on November 11 to director Hogir Hirori's film Sabaya - eds.] The nomination is the latest international accolade for the film, as the documentary was nominated for a European Film Award earlier this year. Vitaly Mansky also won the Award for Best Directing at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) last year, with the festival jury praising the film for providing “a vivid picture of a man who changed the world.”
Gorbachev. Heaven focuses on the former Soviet leader’s life after a rule that gave Soviet citizens unprecedented freedom under glasnost and perestroika—but also saw the meltdown of Chernobyl and the collapse of the Soviet Empire. For this reason, Mansky says, “some praise him, while others curse him.” The film consists of the director’s own observations and interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, now 90 years old, in the setting of the former politician’s own home outside of Moscow, exploring themes of loss and the burden of the past.
Vitaly Mansky, in an interview with Current Time TV, has described Gorbachev as a personal hero, due to his role as a catalyst for change in the Soviet Union, a time when Mansky himself was young. There was little set up for the scenes in Gorbachev. Heaven, Mansky explains, because of the relationship the two already shared. Gorbachev, as such, was free to express his thoughts and his own realization, or non-realization, of his mistakes. In making the documentary, Mansky was able to cover elements of Gorbachev that haven’t been shown before—including Gorbachev’s “own weaknesses”, both physical and mental.
The film has gained significant attention and praise from Western media. The Hollywood Reporter described the documentary as “a lyrical portrait of a former political giant in his twilight years” and “an unusually intimate docu-memoir that feels like an epitaph.” Similarly, Variety lauded Mansky as “one of the most essential working documentarians — with gutsy bravado to match his delicate formal finesse.”
Mansky notably hosts Current Time TV’s Real Cinema (Realnoye Kino), a weekly series that functions as a global movie theater for the digital age. The program focuses on highlighting international films and documentaries that cannot be seen in their countries of production, premieres, personal stories, and interviews. Current Time also offers its own mix of unique features and documentary programming from Russia, Ukraine, the Baltics, and beyond.
Gorbachev. Heaven is not Vitaly Mansky’s first APSA nomination. The director was also nominated in 2016 for his film Under the Sun, a documentary following the life of a young girl in Pyongyang, North Korea. While shooting in North Korea, the team was under constant surveillance from authorities. The final version of the film includes footage shot without the approval of North Korean officials, stored in memory cards hidden from authorities by the film’s crew.
Gorbachev.Heaven Czech Premiere: On November 3, Current Time and co-producer Hypermarket Film, held the Czech premiere of Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky’s Gorbachev.Heaven. Held one day before the film’s commercial release in the Czech Republic, the premiere at Prague’s Kino Lucerna was attended by about 300 people. The film was warmly received by the audience, with some viewers noting that, no matter their views on Gorbachev, they enjoyed the film itself.
-- Erica Stefano