Watch Russia's Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin
- 54 min
Russia's Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin is a documentary film that centers on the state of contemporary literature and the arts in Russia under the reign of Vladimir Putin. The film explores how writers, artists, and other cultural figures navigate the complex terrain of censorship, state-sponsored propaganda, and political repression amid the spread of authoritarianism in Russia.
Narrated by actor and writer Stephen Fry, the film begins by laying out the context of Russia's historical relationship with literature and art. It traces the influence of writers such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pushkin on the development of Russian society and culture, and highlights the role of literature as a vehicle for dissent and political change during times of social upheaval.
As the film progresses, it delves deeper into the contemporary situation faced by writers and artists. The government's increasing control over the media and cultural institutions, as well as its crackdown on political dissent, has made it increasingly difficult for artists and writers to work freely and express their views without fear of persecution.
Throughout the film, we hear from a range of literary figures, including the controversial novelist Vladimir Sorokin and the politically active writer Zakhar Prilepin, both of whom have been targets of government censorship and harassment. They discuss their experiences of writing and publishing in a climate of repression, and reflect on the wider implications of Putin's authoritarianism on Russian culture and society.
The documentary also features interviews with academics, journalists, and cultural commentators, who provide nuanced analysis of the challenges faced by contemporary Russian writers and artists. They explore the tactics used by the government to control the narrative, such as the manipulation of social media, the cultivation of nationalist sentiment, and the co-option of cultural institutions.
One of the key themes of the film is the tension between the desire of writers and artists to create work that reflects their own experiences and the realities of the world around them, and the pressure to self-censor or conform to state-sanctioned narratives. Through interviews and examples of contemporary Russian literature and art, the film explores the creative strategies used by artists and writers to navigate this tension, including subversion, satire, and allegory.
The film does not shy away from the realities of the brutal crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression in Putin's Russia. It discusses the imprisonment of Pussy Riot and the assassinations of journalists and political activists. It also makes clear the impact of the government's propaganda and censorship on the psyche of the Russian people, many of whom have become disillusioned with politics, and have retreated into apathy and cynicism.
Throughout the film, Stephen Fry's narration provides a witty and insightful commentary on the issues at hand, drawing on his own experiences as a writer and commentator to offer a nuanced and informed perspective. His engaging and entertaining voice helps to bring the issues to life and make them accessible to a wider audience.
Overall, Russia's Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin is a thought-provoking and compelling documentary that sheds light on the challenges faced by writers, artists, and cultural figures in Putin's Russia. It is a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary Russian culture and society, and the wider implications of authoritarianism on freedom of expression and creativity.
Russia's Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin is a 2014 documentary with a runtime of 54 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.2.