Putin's Kiss: Film Review

Putins Kiss Poster - P 2011
Martin Dalgaard for Monday Media

Putins Kiss Poster - P 2011

The curious rise and fall of a young Putin supporter who is forced to choose between political forces offers an unusual glimpse into Russia.

Lise Birk Pedersen's movie, which is competing at the IDFA Documentary Festival, centers on the rise and fall of Masha Drokova, a leader of the Russian youth movement that supports Vladimir Putin.

The fetchingly titled Putin’s Kiss turns out to be quite descriptive of the poisonous contagion, masked as friendship and solidarity, that afflicts young Masha Drokova, a teenage leader of the Russian youth movement that supports Vladimir Putin. This amusing Danish doc aimed at TV audiences portrays Masha as an ambitious, intelligent, right-wing young lady who comes fatefully into contact with a bunch of left-wing journalists and loses her bearings. The overall effect is tragi-comic, even considering the dark events that bring the film to an unexpected dramatic climax.     

Director Lise Birk Pedersen is clearly on the side of the liberal journos who narrate the film in a mocking, seen-it-all tone, particularly popular reporter and blogger Oleg Kashin. Through their disenchanted eyes the filmmaker shows Masha’s rapid rise from a pleasingly plump and buxom 16-year-old to the peak of power in Nashi, a vast youth movement maneuvered by political forces loyal to Putin and president Medvedev. At Nashi summer camp, she boldly manages to kiss her hero on the cheek, thus becoming known as “the girl who kissed Putin.” She has her own apartment, a new car and a pro-Putin talk show. She comes to think of herself as a journalist.

At this point, she becomes acquainted with the bearish Kashin and his friends, all critics of Nashi, which they believe to be a dangerously anti-democratic organ aimed at destroying Putin’s political adversaries by turning them into “enemies” of Russia. Already on the skids with Nashi leadership, Masha gets into real hot water when her “new friends” become known. Then, when Kashin is brutally beaten within an inch of his life as he is returning home one evening, Masha’s conscience is torn and she is forced to make a life-changing decision.

Much of the film focuses on the violence happening around Nashi, particularly its ability to mobilize as many as 30,000 young people to occupy public squares, stomp on posters and shout down opposition candidates. These segments point the film in the direction of the news-hungry viewer rather than general audiences. Footage taken from a variety of news sources, including a building surveillance camera, is not always of the highest quality and tends to be quite dark.

Venue: IDFA Documentary Festival (competing)
Production companies: Monday Media & Made in Copenhagen
Director-screenwriter: Lise Birk Pedersen
Executive producer: Martin Dalgaard
Producer: Helle Faber
Director of photography: Lars Skree
Music: Peter Albrechtsen
Editors: Janus Billeskov Jansen,  Steen Johannesen   
Sales agent: DR International Sales
Running time, 85 minutes