'Khodorkovsky' director wary of showing film in Russia

13th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The maker of a twice-stolen documentary on jailed Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the hottest ticket at the Berlin film festival, is wary of showing it in Moscow for his own safety.

German director Cyril Tuschi had the final edit of "Khodorkovsky" snatched in a break-in at his Berlin office this month, weeks after a hard disk with key scenes were taken from his hotel room in Bali.

In both cases, the thieves left other valuables behind.

He told AFP ahead of the keenly awaited premiere Monday that he was unsure who was behind the thefts but said they had made him extremely cautious.

"I feel more insecure and that is not a good feeling," he said. "I wanted to show the film around May in Moscow and I might not do this personally now."

Tuschi said he was also avoiding his home and office and staying with friends until at least the end of the festival on February 20.

"I don't want to be in the office right now. But we want to do the premiere party near the same location also as a statement, not to let fear govern you and cancel everything," he said.

He pointed to widespread speculation in the international and Russia press that the Kremlin or Russia's FSB domestic security service could have ordered the break-ins.

"I don't have the right to say something about that because I don't know," he said.

"But what I know is that many people in Russia think that and that should make you think about how the people in the country trust the powers (that be) and that is scary."

The film paints a nuanced picture of the man at the heart of Russia's most high-profile legal saga in interviews with family members, opponents, fellow travellers and, in the picture's riveting climax, Khodorkovsky himself.

Tuschi depicts the trials as a kind of tug-of-war between the country's richest man, before he was stripped of his assets, and its most powerful, then president Vladimir Putin.

Khodorkovsky, 47, was first detained in 2003, convicted of tax evasion two years later and handed an eight-year sentence. He was jailed for the second time in December on fraud charges and is to stay behind bars until 2017.

His supporters see him as a martyr punished for daring to challenge Putin while Russian authorities insist he is guilty of serious financial crimes.

Tuschi, who had until now only made art films, said he was puzzled by the theft because the film is more a psychological study rather than a work of investigative journalism. He said he aimed to start a dialogue with the film.

"Totally without irony, I invited the Russian ambassador and some other Russian people (to the Berlin premiere) and it would be great if they came," he said, adding that he had received no response from the embassy.

"I don't have anything against Russia. I love Russia. That it is maybe a provocation to put up the truth in the film -- it's still a wish to communicate. It's not meant as an insult, to nobody," he said.

He acknowledged that the break-in had generated useful publicity ahead of a festival at which nearly 400 films from 58 countries are jockeying for attention.

"It's not only negative of course -- many people make jokes 'good PR stunt, great'," he said, joking that some press reports had depicted the controversy as a kind of James Bond fantasy.

He said he and his team had on Friday frantically completed the editing work lost in the break-ins, just three days ahead of the premiere. "Khodorkovsky" will screen in the festival's Panorama section.

© 2011 AFP

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