Director Igor Shadkhan,
Production: TV and Radio Company “Russkoe video”
Length: 45 min
Where it was shown: 1992, Saint Petersburg
Characters: Vladimir Putin
Film online (a short episode):
More episodes from the film. Director Shadkhan is talking about his films about Vladimir Putin:
This film is almost impossible to find; it has therefore become more a subject of discussion than a film to watch. Nevertheless, whenever scholars refer to early audiovisual documentation of Vladimir Putin, they mention this film, Power [Vlast]. However, excerpts from Power can be found in the later film by Igor Shadhkan Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002).
The story that this film can be found in the important and intimate book that Natalia Kugashova-Shadhkan wrote about her husband, Igor Shadkhan. Additionally, scholarship about the 90s and the first years of Putin´s public life mention this story often. As the story goes, Anatoly Sobchak, then-Mayor of Leningrad, was going to make a series about his team, those who came to work under him. The first and apparently only person who was filmed was his assistant, the head of the Committee for External Relations of the Mayor’s Office, Vladimir Putin. Depending on the context, Shadkhan is called ‘Putin’s longtime friend’ or ‘a Jewish documentary film producer.’ Sometimes Shadkhan’s name is missing, but the fact that he is a Jew and/or the friend of Putin is often included. At that time, Shadkhan was making films about the GULAG, and he had just returned from filming on location. In other words, right after filming the difficult and tragic life stories of GULAG prisoners, he was asked to film Putin. In interviews, Shadkhan mentions that he had not known who Vladimir Putin was, and in general, he did not want to film any bureaucrats. But Putin specifically wanted Shadkhan to film him because he liked Shadkhan’s TV film Test for adults [Kontrol´naya dlia vzroslyh] (1977-1992). Eventually, Shadkhan decided to film Putin and interviewed him in the Smolny, the seat of the city administration of Saint Petersburg.
Shadkhan was filming Putin in his office in the Smolny and in his car. The episodes with the car, according to Shadkhan, were supposed to reenact a famous scene with the spy Stierlitz from the famous Soviet television series, The Seventeen Moments of Spring [Семнадцать мгновений весны] (1973, dir. Tatiana Lioznova)
Shadkhan became interested in filming Putin because it was an interesting and new opportunity for a former KGB agent to discuss his professional life as a spy in public. Meanwhile, Putin used the film to talk about his experience with the KGB in order to preempt anticipated critics of his past. Later in a book published two weeks before the 2000 election, Putin admitted that his ‘coming out’ had been intended.
In the film, Shadkhan asks Putin about his family (two daughters), whether he is taking bribes (no), and questions about his work for the Mayor. Interestingly, Putin gave Shadkhan the freedom to edit the film as he wanted and did not even check up on it before it aired on TV. It would be impossible to imagine such editorial freedom nowadays.
Shadkhan saved all the filmed materials, and eleven years later, he decided to make a new film about Putin, now President of Russia. He interviewed Putin again and asked the same questions. This time the interview took place in a new location. In Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002) Putin was filmed in the kitchen of his presidential residence in Sochi.
By then, Shadkhan had experience filming sequel documentaries about the same characters after a long period. The most famous was his Test for adults [Kontrol´naya dlia vzroslyh] (1977-1992) where he filmed the same characters, kids from the nearest kindergarten, several times with seven-year breaks between episodes. This ´longitudinal ‘observation approach has been adopted by several film directors in Russia. Sergey Miroshnichenko, for example, made the famous project Born in the USSR [Rozhdennie v SSSR] (1990-2012), based on Michael Apted’s UK-based project Up Series, filmed in 1964-2019. The Russian versions focused on the differences within society, exploring, for example, the personal stories of children from different republics of the former USSR or in times of change.
Shadkhan made several films about Vladimir Putin:
Power [Vlast´] (1992),
President´s friends [Druz´ya presidenta] (1999),
President’s classmates [Odnokashniki Presidenta] (2004)
Your High Loneliness [Vashe Visokoodinochestvo] (2005).
Quote from the film:
1. Gevorkyan, N. Ot pervogo litsa. Razgovori s Vladimirom Putinim. 2000
2. Shulman A. Kontrlonaya dlya vzroslyh /Test for Adults. Mishpoha-A. 2007
3. Shadkhan N. Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor!: Metod Shadkhana. 2020
4. Shembel D. Born in the USSR: Children vs. Ideology and the Impact of Database Cinema. 2016
5. Shadkhan, I. “Sluchainoe interv’iu Putina porazhaet svoei otkrovennostiu,” NTV. 2007
6. Baker P., Glasser, S. Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the End of Revolution. 2005
7. Dawisha, K. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? 2014
8. Lloyd, J. The Logic of Vladimir Putin. New. York Times. 2000
9. Reznik I., Pismennaya, E. Putin er ensom og redd bak Kremls murer. Aftenposten. 2012