Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Noughties. A Russian wrap-up.

Mikhail Yefremov in Citizen Poet.

The Noughties ("Нулевые") is a 70-minute documentary about Russia in the 2000s that is quickly becoming a hit on the internet. It was made by Vadim Vostrov for Krasnoyarsk, East Siberia, regional television company TVK-6 (producer Xenia Cherepanova).

It paints a bleak picture of modern Russia controlled by corrupt bureaucracy who act with complete impunity knowing that Putin will never let them down.

Vostrov follows the rise of the opposition protests since September last year. The collection of politicians, historians, activists, journalists (including The New Yorker's Moscow writer Julia Ioffe), writers and actors who are interviewed in the film seems haphazard at first but towards the end grows into a multi-dimensional picture of vibrant  Russian debate.

The film includes extensive interview with one of the top modern writers Zakhar Prilepin and footage of Boris Akunin speaking at protest rallies in Moscow.

One subplot in the film describes the extraordinary success of a Moscow theatre production called Citizen Poet ("Гражданин поэт"). It is, essentially, a reading of poetry, or rather paraphrases of well-known poems by Russian classics written by Dmitry Bykov, a popular journalist and TV presenter. They are all blistering satirical takes on Putin and Medvedev and their publicity stunts. Packed hall bursts out laughing at each new joke, and the performer, Mikhail Yefremov, can't help cracking up himself at times. The production has been seen in theatre by more than 300 thousand people. Citizen Poet was released as series on Echo Moskvy  radio and Dozhd TV channel. YouTube clips of Citizen Poet have been viewed more than 15 million times.

The phrase 'When poets rocked the stadiums' has long become commonplace to describe the phenomenal renaissance of Russian poetry during Khrushchyov's thaw in the late 50s - early 60s. Could it be that now, 50 years later, we may see a new wave?

(The film is in Russian, the subplot about Citizen Poet starts at 1:07:45 into the film, Prilepin's interview is split into short takes throughout the film. Read more about Citizen Poet in this Russian Wikipedia article. Photo of Bykov by Rodrigo Fernandez).

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