film, Poland, politics

Last night,

after buying a train ticket for my trip to Wrocław tomorrow, I went to the first evening of the Warsaw Film Festival, at the Kinoteka in the Pałac Kultury i Nauki, and saw the European premiere of an incredible documentary, “A Bitter Taste of Freedom,” about the career and murder of journalist Anna Politovskaya.

She was killed, in all likelihood (her murder is still very much unsolved) as retaliation for her conducting hard-hitting investigative journalism, about Chechnya and refugee issues within Russia. Her writing was heavily critical of the Russian government.

Yesterday’s date (10/8/11) was the five-year anniversary of the attack on Politovskaya, and her death. The film had been screened earlier that day for an audience of her family members in Russia.

The producer, Malcolm Dixelius, was present for a Q&A with the audience afterwards.

Here’s more about the film, from an August Variety review:

Profoundly moving, politically provocative and apt to provoke moral outrage in anyone short of Vladimir Putin, “A Bitter Taste of Freedom” is acclaimed documentarian Maria Goldovskaya’s portrait of her longtime friend Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Russian journalist whose still-unsolved 2006 murder remains a symbol of the national corruption she tried to expose. Goldovskaya does not concern herself with the killing as much as with Politkovskaya’s character and the conflicts in Chechnya she covered so doggedly, presumably leading to her death. Festival play and likely ecstatic word of mouth should lead to a specialty run beyond the pic’s Oscar-qualifying DocuWeeks berth.

Pic reps a very personal follow-up to Goldovskaya’s 1991 docu “A Taste of Freedom,” in which Politkovskaya and her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Russian TV personality Sasha, were subjects. That film was made during Russia’s honeymoon with democracy; that things haven’t quite worked out is clear from the title of the new pic, which was originally intended to be a sequel set in the post-Putin era.

In preparation for a film that would have reassessed the course of Russian history since the fall of communism, Goldovskaya interviewed Politkovskaya extensively, yielding the powerful, poignant conversations that are at the heart of “A Bitter Taste of Freedom.” Politkovskaya, whose public persona seemed rather severe (especially to Westerners who saw her only in still photographs), is heartbreakingly lovely here, not just physically, but artistically: From the resolve she brings to her work, she seems to know she’s sealing her own fate.