Documentary details corruption in ‘Putin’s Games’

A runner carries the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch in Krasnoyarsk

The International Documentary Film Festival, held in Amsterdam, opened Nov. 20th for its 26th run. With almost 300 entries from around the world, films often tell poignant and powerful stories. One of those stories this year is titled «Putin’s Games.»

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) continues through Dec. 1, 2013. While advertised as showing a vast array of documentary films from around the world, the power of some documentaries aren’t soon forgotten, as may be seen with the film titled «Putin’s Games.»

Produced by Simone Baumann, and directed by Russian-born Israeli Alexander Gentelev, «Putin’s Games» is a story detailing the environmental damage, governmental corruption and threats surrounding the building of the Sochi Olympic Village in Sochi, Russia.

The film is supposed to premiere in Moscow on Dec. 6, despite opposition from the Russian government, and what Baumann, the producer, calls bribes in an attempt to keep her from showing the film at the IDFA this week.

Baumann says she was offered $973,000. double what it cost to produce the film, to prevent it being shown at the festival.
«In a society where they think they can buy anything — and usually can — if you ask for a price, you are already a buyer,» she said. «You must never ask the price. I simply told him that I was not interested and walked away.»

The film features the everyday people of Sochi, from residents talking about damage to the environment, to the unending disruption brought on by construction. A contractor matter-of-factly explains how kickbacks demanded by government officials rose from three percent when construction started in 2008, to over 50 percent in later years.

Valery Morozov, the contractor, says,
«We received explicit threats: ‘You’ll be soaked with blood; drowned in blood. It was very straightforward. We know the history. Russia generally does not care much for human life.»
Residents in the film complain about mix-ups in construction causing sewage to end up running through water taps in their apartments, flower beds being ripped up and replaced by concrete slabs and, worst of all, dumps, large landfills all around the city.

The film also features opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who is a resident of Sochi, ridiculing Putin’s choice of a sub-tropical city for a winter sporting event. «You’d have to spend a long time searching the map of this huge country to find someplace with no snow,» Nemtsov said. «Putin found it.»

Baumann said the film crew spent two years researching the film, and had the permission of the authorities in Sochi and Moscow to do the filming. At the start of filming, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was very upset about the content of the film and forbade the use of the word «Olympics» in the title. The IOC would not allow the use of any archival footage of the Olympics to be included in the film, either.

CBC News network aired a documentary on Saturday, Oct. 12, titled «Putin’s Road to Sochi.» The film was also directed by Alexander Gentelev, and apparently showed many of the same scenes as the film shown in Amsterdam.
In the documentary, Sochi’s Mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, remains true to the government, saying,
“Our city is a park. It’s meant for leisure not corruption. So all this talk about corruption hurts me.”

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