Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File

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Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File Review


Have you ever wondered about the risk a documentary filmmaker takes when he or she commits to a film about an ongoing event or situation? Russian documentarian Andrei Nekrasov set out to document a group of like-minded comrades who had the courage to speak publically about the negative aspects of Russian president Vladimir Putin's rule as a de facto dictator. In preliminary footage he featured none other than ex-KGB agent Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko. Never heard of him? Actually, you probably have.

Before the film was completed, but after his extended and detailed rail against the Kremlin and the hideous policies of its security apparatus was in the can, the 2006 case of a Russian being poisoned by an intentional dose of deadly radiation agent Polonium-210 was all over the international news. The victim was citizen Alexander Litvinenko, silenced for the very thing Nekrasov recorded -- intolerable accusations against the regime by an ex-party insider.

When it happened, a furious and bitter Nekrasov had some choices to make. Does he close shop on the project out of fear or grievance over the loss of his friend and compatriot? Or, does he revamp, and use the prescient Litvinenko interviews as foretellings of his destiny and which now speak to the world from the podium of the criminally silenced? The filmmaker, of course, chose the latter, defying his evil adversary with the words of the outspoken martyr who paid the ultimate price for warning against the fate that he suffered.

The film, if somewhat disordered and difficult to follow, raises alarms about what could await a political dissident like Litvinenko in the Putin world. Anti-Putinists beware.

Unfortunately, despite the ardor of his conviction, and in the cold light of objectivity, Nekrasov bogs his film down with talking heads unfamiliar in the West. And Nekrasov might have included a more liberal use of identification titles when key people in the discussion appear and reappear to aid us in better understanding the comparative weight of charges, countercharges, theories, suspicions, and political positionings. And the number of times we see Nekrasov himself suggests a wee bit more self-promotion than necessary, handsome and emotionally-involved fellow though he is.

Interestingly, none of the regional titles for the film use words like "murder," "assassination," "martyr," and the like. For the West the title states a fact, while the official European title is "Rebellion," which we must concede is the act that brought on the Russian's fate.

In the end, the outrage one must feel about this sinister crime may well be reignited by this documentary, as it should, and Nekrasov's dedication to tell as much of the story as possible should be appreciated and duly considered for the world's verdict. The geo-political and historical value of what the interviews expose is, perhaps, more important in the end than telling the tale like a thriller.

Aka Bunt. Delo Litvinenko, Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case.



Poisoned by Polonium: The Litvinenko File

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 31st August 2007

Budget: $500 thousand

Distributed by: Kino International Corp.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Andrei Nekrasov

Producer: Andrei Nekrasov

Starring: Alexander Litvinenko as Himself, Boris Berezovsky as Himself, André Glucksmann as Himself, Marina Litvinenko as Herself

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