Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Watching Putin's Kiss, Thinking Hong Kong

Roughly means: Those who beat Oleg Kashin must be brought to justice.
Marsha withdrew from NASHI after Oleg, her friend, has been beaten by two unknown attackers. 
This documentary is about the rise, the struggle, the fall, and eventually the reawakening of Marsha Drokova - an intelligent and enthusiastic, yet young and naive, lady.

What Winston Churchill said in 1939 still prophetically holds true: Russia is a 'riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma'. Now Pedersen, the Denmark director, offers Marsha to slightly unwrap that riddle and to help us understand the difference in Russia, if any, after the demise of the noble experiment by Gorbachev. 

Like Hitler Youth in Hitler Germany, Komsomol (Communist Union of Youth) in USSR and 共青團 (Communist Youth League) in China, Putin's Russia institutes NASHI,  a youth movement that seeks to absorb the youth enthusiasm and unleash it to fill up the civil society.

It keeps pondering in my mind of the terrifying consequence after the state has gained power to use the media as the state apparatus. The spontaneous harassments from youths (ranging from excreting on the opposition leader's car in public to flying dildos in meeting during an activist's talk), large buses travelling youths from subburg to Moscow for a mass denunciation of enemies and finally the near fatal attack of Oleg Kashin, a critical journalist against Putin, only serve to show a simple logic: 'You are either with Putin or the enemy.'

Notwithstanding using his name as the title, Putin rarely appeared on screen, saved for a few seconds here or there. Yet, his absence only amplifies his presence throughout the whole film,  more like the Big Brother is watching you. 

I can't help but to relate back to Hong Kong. The police's frequent use of pepper spray, setting up barricades against a dozen kids and recently laying a discriminatory media zone at the Central Liaison Office seems to me resonating the use of state power against different yet legitimate voices.

Fortunately the media in Hong Kong is still free but similar signs show up. As one opposition leader has put it in the film, 'you are not treated as opposition, but rather as an enemy'. 文匯報 (Wen Wei Pao), with article like this, is denouncing the opposition from barristers in the Civic Party almost as 反中亂港 ('anti - China, meddling HK'), instead of seeing them as contributing a different opinion to social problems.

The film closes with a casual chat between Marsha who has already withdrawn from NASHI and Oleg who has managed to survive the fatal attack.  Still an ardent believer in Putin, Marsha described him as a saviour 'sent to Russia by God', in which Oleg wryly said only as 'an angel of the Apocalypse.'

This is the only moment where different opinions are voiced out in such casual chat and with such mutual respect. 

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