WASHINGTON - Russia this year marks President Vladimir Putin’s ascent to power 20 years ago, a turning point that is captured in the documentary film Putin’s Witnesses, directed by acclaimed Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky. The film will be screened at the National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday evening, January 16, at an event sponsored by NPC in cooperation with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Current Time.
Mansky, National Press Club President Alison Kodjak, The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser, and members of Current Time will discuss the film after the screening.
Putin’s Witnesses documents the events that followed the unexpected resignation of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in December 1999 and culminated in Putin’s electoral victory the following March. As head of documentaries for Russian national television, Mansky had unparalleled on- and off-screen access to Putin and other members of the Russian elite who orchestrated his rise. Described by Variety as “riveting” and “incensed,” the film draws upon hundreds of hours of original footage to offer what Mansky has called an intimate “testimony” to help “cure [Russian society] from an advanced illness,” and to prevent other countries “from losing their freedom.”
The film has been screened and lauded at top international film festivals, but because of its political content only the independent Russian-language network Current Time has shown it in Russia to the Russian audiences Mansky intended it for.
Mansky was named a Person of the Year for 2018 by the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in recognition of his work in Putin’s Witnesses, his daring portrait of North Korea in Under the Sun (2015), and his contribution to culture as director of Russia’s ArtDocFest, which continues to bring independent documentaries to Russian audiences despite mounting pressure from the state.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and television network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with the Voice of America. With affiliates and channel distributors in 20 countries, more than 520 million videos viewed on social media in 2018, a combined following on Facebook and YouTube of over 1.7 million, and a vital presence on Russian-language social networks, it is an innovative and influential alternative to Kremlin-controlled media.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to over 34 million people in 25 languages and 21 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.