WASHINGTON -- Putin’s Witnesses, a film by Russian director Vitaly Mansky and supported by Current Time, has won the Best Documentary prize in the Czech Republic’s 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Described by Variety as a “riveting, incensed documentary” observing then-Russian Federal Security Service Chief Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, it will be screened for Russian audiences on Current Time platforms on December 31, 19 years to the day since the current Putin era began.
Accepting the award before a packed crowd on the red carpet on July 7, Mansky thanked Current Time, with whose support “the film will be shown in Russia and in Russian,” adding that “Current Time believed in this project and supported it from the very beginning.” He also thanked producers Natalia Manskaya of Studio Vertov, Gabriela Bussmann of GoldenEggProduction, and Filip Remunda and Vit Klusak of Hypermarket Films, as well as friends and investors in the Czech Republic.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and television network led by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in cooperation with the Voice of America. With affiliates and channel distributors in 27 countries, more than 400 million videos viewed in 2017 on Facebook, a combined following on Facebook and YouTube of over one million, and a vital presence on Russian-language platforms such as Vkontakte, it is an innovative and influential news, information and cultural alternative to Kremlin-controlled media.
Putin’s Witnesses draws on extensive, unpublished footage of Putin and his circle, at home and during the presidential campaign, shot by Mansky between 1999-2000 when he was the director for documentaries for Russian state TV. “It is impossible to imagine any other director getting this much unguarded access ever again,” wrote The Hollywood Reporter. The camera work is combined with Mansky’s guiding voice-over and a spare musical score to establish an intimate account of President Boris Yeltsin’s relinquishment of office, and Putin’s ascent.
Independent, political films are rarely shown in Russia. Mansky, who currently lives in Riga, Latvia, has said it is unlikely that Putin’s Witnesses, which deals directly with the image and person of the president, would get mainstream distribution.
“This is a film about contemporary Russia, and it is vital that Russian audiences have the opportunity to see it,” said Kenan Aliyev, Executive Editor for Feature Programming for Current Time, which commissioned the film. “We are thrilled and honored to provide this opportunity, and to fight censorship and be a platform for some of Russia’s most influential and independent voices.”