Home Arts The winter of Russian discontent

The winter of Russian discontent

by Ayan Chowdhury February 26, 2013
The winter of Russian discontent

Still from the documentary film Winter, Go Away! (2012)

This week’s installment of Cinema Politica has an appropriate title considering the time of year but, ironically, it has nothing to do with the cold or the icy sidewalks of Montreal’s most bone-chilling season.

Winter, Go Away! (2012), a documentary directed by Anton Seregin, Marina Razbezhkina and Askold Kurov, bears a title that subtly refers to the “winter of our discontent,” felt by many Russian citizens, reluctant to see a third presidential term in 12 years go to Vladimir Putin.

This is an observational documentary, meaning that there’s neither commentary nor music. The filmmakers take a fly-on-the-wall approach. As such, Winter, Go Away! also serves as an exposé of Russia’s shady political dealings.

The directors follow several anti-Putin protesters and other outspoken critics, leading up to the “Rally for Fair Elections” held in Moscow in February 2012, and then culminating with the elections held a month later. On more than one occasion, viewers are brought to understand the burning questions that spur the protestors onward. For instance, during a university lecture he is giving, Ivan Mironov – a writer and activist – asks why anyone would consider voting for Putin, considering his numerous alleged abuses of power. One student simply states: “It doesn’t matter who we vote for, it won’t change a thing.” Taken aback, Mironov replies: “What if it did?” Mironov’s comment makes it clear that questions of this sort are what fuels their hopeful, yet inevitably futile, democratic ambitions.

One of the more amusing scenes in the film occurs when we see a group of dissenters wearing Guy Fawkes masks, quietly travelling by bus and casually reading the morning paper. The filmmakers also encounter the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, an all-female group with political goals whose members hide their faces behind colourful balaclavas. The cameras capture their infamous protest, that of an impromptu performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a stunt which lead to their arrests but which also garnered them international headlines.

Nonetheless, the film falters in its inability to provide the viewer with enough background information regarding the various players in Russian politics, often leaving the audience confused. Although the subject matter is highly relevant, in light of Russia’s recent state of internal affairs, the documentary’s execution lacks lustre. Without the proper context, the film doesn’t fully resonate emotionally and the viewer is left watching fiery Russians bicker about matters that they don’t fully understand. The filmmakers perhaps make the most grievous assumption in expecting us, as outsiders, to care from the very beginning.

What you’ll find in Winter, Go Away! is fragmented vignettes of brewing political unrest. Be it through electrifying scenes shot from the heart of chanting mass protests or through stolen instances of police brutality, what’s portrayed is the plight of the average Russian activist, restlessly fighting for his political and civil rights, one day at a time.

Winter, Go Away! screens March 18 at 7 pm in Room H-110, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. Director Askold Kurov will be in attendance. For more information, visit www.cinemapolitica.org/concordia

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