Director Igor Shadkhan; presenter Oleg Poptsov

Length: 3 episodes (40, 40, 46 min)

Where it was shown: TVC

Characters: Vladimir Putin

Unfortunately, the film is not available online.

This film is a virtual dialogue with Vladimir Putin in three episodes. There are three types of materials used in this film. First, Shadkhan reuses footage from his film, On the Way [V puti] (2001). Shadkhan was filming passengers traveling from Arkhangelsk, Vorkuta, and Kaliningrad to Petersburg via train. Shadkhan talks to the passengers about their lives, specifically life under Putin’s presidency. Second, Oleg Poptsov, chief director of TVC, was filmed walking between the armchairs in the studio and changing his outfit, all the while pretending to be talking to Putin through the screen. Third, the filmmakers used archival videos of Vladimir Putin (from TVC).

The film is edited to make it seem like the President is listening to Oleg Poptsov and the passengers on the train talking about their lives. Some of the passengers were saying, “The President is so lonely that he does not know how the country and its people live, how poor people are, that most of the bureaucrats are stealing.” In some episodes Vladimir Putin even ‘approvingly nodded’. After the film aired, Oleg Poptsov was fired, allegedly because of this film. In her book about her husband, Natalia Shadkhan notices that foreign audiences were interested in this film but found it too supportive of Putin and his politics. The film was bought by the TV Channel Russia-1 and allegedly not shown (Shadkhan 2020).

Sources:

1. Interview BBC with Oleg Poptsov (December 2005).

2. Degtyar, Mikhail (2020) Reporter.

2. Shadkhan Natalia (2020) Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor!: Metod Shadkhana.

Director Igor Shadkhan

Length: 43 minutes

The film is not accessible online.

Shadkhan got the idea for this film from Elena Sokolova, who studied in the 10G class at School 281 and graduated in 1970. The President went to the same school, but he studied in the 10V class. Sokolova provided amateur footage from her school days. Shadkhan and his team thoroughly studied them, but they never found Putin, not even randomly. So they made a film with the 51-year-old former pupils of School 281 watching the archival footage and discussing their unusual experience. Shadkhan included comments from two of Putin`s classmates. They say that the democratic spirit of School 281 and Putin’s authoritarian style are not compatible. TV Channel Russia 1 bought this film, but it has never been aired.

Sources:

Shadkhan N. Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor!: Metod Shadkhana. 2020

Director Igor Shadkhan

Film crew:   Kuzin O., Korzhavin G., Myachin A., Manilova A.

Length: 80 minutes

Information about this film is from Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor! by Natalia Shadkhan, wife of film director Igor Shadkhan. Natalia Shadkhan has a copy of the film, but she cannot remember if it was shown on TV or anywhere else. There is no information about this film online.

Sources:

Shadkhan N. Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor!: Metod Shadkhana. 2020

Director Igor Shadkhan

Chief editor Natalia Zlobina

Executive producers Anna Vinogradova, Aleksandr Makushin

Length: 58 min

Where it was shown: TV Channel Russia (Russia-1 now) 07.10.2002

Personalities shown: Ludmila Putina, George and Laura Bush

Characters: Vladimir Putin, Igor Shadkhan

Film online:

Vladimir Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002). Part 1.
Vladimir Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002). Part 2.
Vladimir Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002). Part 3.

Sometimes the title of this film is translated into English as “A conversation in the Evening” (see e.g., Sakwa, R. (2007) Putin. Russia’s choice; Cameron, R. (2004) Russian Politics Under Putin).

This film is based on the first interview that filmmaker Igor Shadkhan had with Vladimir Putin in 1991. The next year, this interview was shown as a film called Power [Vlast]  (1992). Shadkhan saved all the filmed material. Eleven years later, in 2002, Shadkhan watched the first interview from 1991 with Vladimir Putin and interviewed him again asking the same questions. Shadkhan already had experience filming documentaries about the same characters after a long period of time. He has made several films about Vladimir Putin:

  • Power [Vlast´]  (1992),
  • President´s friends [Druzya presidenta] (1999),
  • Vladimir Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002),
  • President’s classmates [Odnokashniki Presidenta] (2004),
  • Your High Loneliness [Vashe Visokoodinochestvo] (2005).

The interview in the film was conducted on the principle of Test for adults [Kontrolnaya dlia vzroslyh] (1977-1992) – in which a character who sees himself on the screen in the past compares and assesses himself in the present.

This time he filmed Vladimir Putin in the kitchen of his presidential residence, Bocharov ruchei, in Sochi. Putin prepares tea for Shadkhan in a small kitchen, evoking a scene from an earlier film. In Unknown Putin. Peace and War [Neizvestny Putin. Mir I Voina] (2000), Putin’s assistant at the president’s residence in Moscow made tea for the president, mistakenly giving him a cup with lemon. Putin gives it to film director Vitaly Mansky to avoid wasting it. These gestures with tea humanize Putin and make him look very ‘svoy’ for the Russian audience.
The interview’s setting is very homey. Vladimir Putin is filmed mostly with a middle frame, wearing a blue shirt with short sleeves, sitting in this small brown kitchen. A black dog is yawning next to the table.

They talk about the same issues they talked about in 1991: GULAG, the role of history, and the state of the country. There is a great mise-en-scène: Vladimir Putin with a cup of tea stalks about the necessity of ruling a state with a firm hand; Igor Shadkhan stalks about the GULAG in his calm voice.

Evening Talk. 2002. Putin and Shadkhan sitting at the table with tea. President´s residence in Sochi. Picture 1
Evening Talk. 2002. Putin and Shadkhan sitting at the table with tea. President´s residence in Sochi. Picture 2

The conversation flows from a discussion about Sobchak and politics in Saint Petersburg to international affairs, poverty in Russia, establishing a middle class and taking care of the elderly.

In 1991 the conversation touched on the Soviet period: when Shadkhan notices that the bust of Lenin has disappeared from the shelf in Vladimir Putin’s office during filming Putin says he does not know where it has disappeared to and does not much care. He also mentions that the country has suffered too much and that it was a tragedy that in 1917 the communists divided a united Russia into republics and killed capitalism and the market.

Vladimir Putin talks about his family. This time from the angle of their role in society. He categorizes them as working-class intelligentsia [rabochaya intelligentsia]. They replay Vladimir Putin’s words about his family from 1991, that he has two daughters. In 2002 Shadkhan mentions that Putin’s daughter Masha is already 17 and Katia is 16. They continue a general conversation about young people. They do not particularly mention Vladimir Putin´s wife, Ludmila, but we can see her sitting next to Laura Bush, during the meeting between Bush and Putin at St. Petersburg University in May 2002. Shadkhan asks when Putin was last in a café with his wife, Ludmila Aleksandrovna, where they could dance. Putin answers that he does not remember. He switches the conversation to a patriotic refrain, saying he is not going to complain that he does not have a personal life; he would rather do everything for his motherland.

Shadkhan asks Putin’s comments on some of his actions since the last film. For example, when he flew a Su-27 fighter jet to Chechnya. He explained that it happened purely for security reasons. Shadkhan asks about Putin’s trips in Russia, whether they were promotional and whether everything had been prepared in advance to meet the president’s expectations. Putin equivocates. He says that he is trying to visit as much as possible when he is not on holiday.

Allegedly, after they filmed Evening talk Putin asked Shadkhan if he could do something for him, and Shadkhan asked about the amnesty for the heroine of his film I beg your pardon [O milosti proshu] (2001), sentenced to six years for inciting the murder of her abusive husband. The woman was sick, and three children were waiting for her. Moreover, the situation itself was so ambiguous that Shadkhan sided with the woman. A few days later, Putin called Shadkhan and said that a decree had been signed to pardon the heroine of his film.

Quote from the film:

For some people, no matter what they do and whatever they are occupied with, it is never enough power and money. The question is how to dispose of the funds that you have in order to achieve maximum effect. Of course, some kind of standard set of credentials is needed to implement the tasks that face this or that governing body. I think that the Russian head of state has enough such credentials.

vladimir putin

Sources:

1. Karpenko, M. Filmography of Vladimir Putin. Kommersant. 2018

2. Shadkhan N. Rasskazhi pro menya, Igor!: Metod Shadkhana. 2020

3. Shulman A. Kontrlonaya dlya vzroslyh /Test for Adults. Mishpoha-A. 2007

4. Voloshina, V. Ya ne tot pridvorny hudozhnik, kotoriy kosoglazogo imperatora vidaet za yasnogo sokola. Interview with Igor Shadkhan. 2013

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),

Vladimir Putin. Evening talk [Vladimir Putin. Vecherny razgovor] (2002),

President’s classmates [Odnokashniki Presidenta] (2004)

Your High Loneliness [Vashe Visokoodinochestvo] (2005).

Power [Vlast´] (1992). Vladimir Putin in his office in Smolny.

Quote from the film:

No matter how sad it is and no matter how scary it may sound, in my opinion, in our country, a turn toward totalitarianism is possible for a certain period of time. However, the danger must be looked for, or one must see the danger not in the law enforcement agencies, not in the security services, the police or even in the army, this danger is in the mentality of ourselves, in the mentality of our people, our population, our own mentality. It seems to all of us, and sometimes it seems to me that if we put things in order with a firm hand, then all of us will live better, more comfortably and safely. In fact, this comfort will pass very quickly, because this rigid hand will begin to choke us very quickly, and we will instantly feel it on ourselves and on our family members.

Vladimir putin

Sources:

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

10. Karpenko, M. Filmography of Vladimir Putin. Kommersant. 2018