Saturday, July 26, 2008

Seven Years on the Front Line

Via kasparov.ru, a remarkable and highly intelligent documentary film (with English subtitles) about the last few years in the life of Anna Politkovskaya. The director is Masha Novikova, and the film features many sequences in which Politkovskaya herself explains the nature of her work as a journalist who was really a soldier in the struggle for truth and civil society in Russia. Although it was the focus of her activity, Chechnya was only one of the elements in the central task she aspired to: the bringing of truth, reconciliation and justice to Russian society as a whole. As one participant in the film points out, it  was her willingness to name culprits that led to her death by assassination.

The film contains many harrowing scenes of violence and brutality, together with interviews with victims and their relatives, and documents some of the worst of the crimes committed by Russian federal forces and their commanders during the second Chechen war. What it underlines most of all, however, is the fact that in some ways Politkovskaya's aims have been fulfilled, at least in terms of international comprehension: for the evidence of the crimes that were sanctioned and authorized by Russia's leaders is now so detailed and so extensive that those leaders cannot present themselves to the civilized world and expect to be received as part of it. They are international pariahs. 

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