Director Vitaly Mansky; cameramen Yuryi Ermolin, Vyacheslav Sachkov, Alexandr Kuznetsov, Eugeny Sveshnikov, Pavel Sukhov, Sergey Miroshnichenko, Igor Muraviev, Sergey Shishkin, Vitaly Mansky; sound director Lidiya Scherbakova, Alexandr Veselkin; producer Natalia Manskaya
Production: Studio “Vertov &K” ordered by TV Channel RTR
Length: 55 min
Where it was shown: TV Channel RTR (Russia)
Personalities shown: Ludmila Putina, Tony Blair, Maya Plisetskya, Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schroder, Yury Luzhkov, Alexander Lukashenko, Nursultan Nazarbaev, Sergei Shoigu, Patriarch Alexy II, etc.
Characters: Vera Gurevich, Vladimir Putin
Film online (4 minutes):
Putin. The Leap Year [Putin. Visokosny god] was made by Vitaly Mansky with footage from the first year of Putin’s presidency (starting from his first days in the Kremlin when he became the Acting President until May 7th, 2001, the 1st anniversary of his official presidency). It includes some material from Unknown Putin. Peace and War [Neizvestny Putin. Mir I Voina] (2000). Mansky comments on some of the footage. In 2018, Mansky made another film, Putin’s Witnesses [Svideteli Putina] (2018), where he also uses video from the two earlier films.
The camera follows Putin during his trips, visits, and meetings, and the film is organized as a whirl of faces and places that Putin walks and works through. This is a series of work trips rather than an election campaign or a promotional tour. The way the film is edited takes you through this non-stop presidential year: catastrophes and terrorist attacks, TV shows, and sparing with kids on tatami mats. Putin is presented as a very active and versatile person: he drives a tractor, flies a plane, tours a submarine, etc. He dares to go to Chechnya and leave flowers where the paratroopers from Pskov died and visits Vedyaevo, the place where the Kursk submariners lived before dying in a tragic accident.
There is Vladimir Putin whose image has not yet been completely formed into the one we know nowadays. It is not yet the image of the Soviet spy Stierlitz from the Soviet TV series “Seventeen Moments of Spring” that is often replicated in recent TV documentaries about Vladimir Putin—an image that seems so close and familiar and yet so distant and strange.
We observe the happy face of the president when he talks to women on the street; we observe his pale and tragic face when he speaks about terrorist attacks; we observe him comforting a random man in the passage under Pushkin Square after the terrorist explosion there. These scenes, as well as the one with Putin cuddling a dog, swimming in his pool, or talking about the impossibility of grabbing a beer like a normal person, shorten the distance to Putin as a personality enormously.
Women become an important element of the film’s storytelling: old women in the streets, a young girl with a Pioneer tie, the famous ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who bows to him on the stage… The old babushkas call him “My boy” and say they trust him.
These women hug him, smile at him, honor him. Then widows of the sailors from the sunk submarine Kursk become a part of the film’s agenda, a silent (in this documentary) symbol of the tragedy within the submarine. In Putin. The Leap Year we often see the President’s wife Ludmila. She appears with him at official meetings, in trips that are left unnamed, walking together and holding hands. It is very rare that such footage is included in documentary films about Putin. In most, the focus remains on his mother and teacher, rather than his wife or daughters.
Vladimir Putin’s personal life in this film appears as a kaleidoscope of family photos, which travel from one documentary to another. Mansky and Putin, in the film, have several conversations that often happen late in the evening. They discuss uncomfortable topics: the possibility of extending the President’s term, life after leaving the presidency, Vladimir Putin’s political views, and his attitude to the Communist past, both his own and that of his country.
Quote from the film:
- Tarasov, A. Interview with Vitaly Mansky. Avtorskya programma Alekseya Tarasova. Gost Vitaly Mansky. Efir ot 25.04.2018
- Karpenko, M. Filmography of Vladimir Putin. Kommersant. 2018