Khodorkovsky (2011) – Documentary Retroview

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Profiling Russia’s Richest Man

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is an icon in Russia, and throughout the rest of the world, too. He’s young, attractive, smart and extremely rich. And he’s in jail.

German filmmaker Cyril Tuschi profiles the fascinating Khodorkovsky, tracing his life and career from the time his early childhood, through his standout student career in Soviet Russia and his rise to prominence in post-Soviet Russia’s growing capitalist economy.

Current interviews with Khodorkovsky’s family, childhood friends and classmates, and his business colleagues, as well as archival footage from Khodorkovsky’s youth and early business career, establish him to be a hard-working and extremely ambitious man who was able to make the most of economic opportunities in post-Soviet Russia and become the head of YUKOS, Russia’s rich oil company.

An Economic and Political Power Player

Khodorkovsky, once listed as the richest man in Russia and 14th on the Forbes list of billionaires, hobnobbed with the world’s economic and political leaders, including US president George W.

Bush, who is shown in the film. Because of his business acumen and leadership qualities, Khodorkovsky was seen to have had and actually still has potential for becoming Russia’s political leader as well as one of its economic moguls.

Perhaps that potential was one of the factors that brought about Khodorkovsky’s recent downfall, which the film depicts as the result of his inherent rivalry and open political clash with Russian president Vladimir Putin. In a power struggle of titanic proportions, the president and state justice system clearly had the upper hand.

Change of Fortune

In 2003, Khodorkovsky was arrested upon his return to Russia from travels abroad. Apparently he knew of the impending arrest, but returned to Russia anyway, instead of staying abroad and escaping prosecution when he certainly had the means to do so. His decision to return rather than flee has rendered many interpretations about his long-term intentions. Many feel that a prison sentence imposed by Putin could only better his changes for rising to political power in the future.

Accused of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering, Khodorkovsky has fought against his conviction in several trials, including one case that he initiated in the European Court of Human Rights, accusing Russia of having imprisoned him for political reasons rather than for the economic crimes of which he was accused and for which he was sentenced.

Khodorkovsky is still in prison. This well-made film focuses the spotlight on him, and creates great curiosity about what will happen next. Khodorkovsky’s current imprisonment should end in 2017. The film will need an update at that time, or perhaps before then.

Compelling Style and Storytelling

Filmmaker Cyril Tuschi tells Khodorkovsky’s fascinating story in a most compelling way, using magnificent cinematography to establish places — like the place of Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment — where few viewers have been, and stunning black and white animated sequences to create a sense of monumental tension while depicting scenes that could not have been captured on video or film, and for making dramatic transitions from one sequence to another. But the film’s artful style does not defile its ambiance of authenticity or blur the story’s through line.

Film Details:

Title: Khodorkovsky
Director: Cyril Tuschi
Release Date: November 25, 2011 (limited)
Running Time: 111 mins.
Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
Location: Russia, Siberia
Language: English, plus Russian and German, with English subtitles
Distribution Company: Rezo Films, Kino Lorber

If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:

Chasing Madoff
My Perestroika
Inside Job
Capitalism: A Love Story
The End of America

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