- Putin's Kiss, Lise Birk Pedersen 2011, Feature Documentary, 85 min, Denmark, Russia
Masha Drokova is a rising star in Russia"s popular nationalistic youth movement, Nashi. A smart, ambitious teenager who"literally"embraced Vladimir Putin and his promise of a greater Russia, her dedication as an organizer is rewarded with a university scholarship, an apartment, and a job as a spokesperson. But her bright political future falters when she befriends a group of liberal journalists who are critical of the government, including blogger Oleg Kashin, who calls Nashi a "group of hooligans," and she"s forced to confront the group"s dirty"even violent"tactics. In her first feature, Danish filmmaker Lise Birk Pedersen offers a chilling view of modern Russia, its fragile democracy, and Nashi"s alarmingly fascist tendencies (mass rallies, book burnings, "patriotic education," and vilification of opponents). Distinguished by an artful, cinematic aesthetic and astonishing intimacy, the film"s emotional weight lies in the evolution of Masha"s political consciousness. PUTIN'S KISS reminds us that all politics are deeply personal. - abridged from Sundance Film Festival, J.N.