The Vanishing Documentary

The story of the mysterious break-in and robbery at flimmaker Cyril Tuschi’s Berlin studios this past weekend is one of the more remarkable and perplexing items of intrigue out of Russia this year – and that’s not a short list.

The final version of Tuschi’s film, which is said to explore the rise and fall of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was snatched from his laptops and hard drives just days before it was slated for its debut at the Berlin Film Festival.  This is the second robbery of the film since he began working on it years ago (the filmmaker’s computer was also stolen while on vacation in Bali).  Luckily, the thieves struck a little too late, as Tuschi had already sent in a final cut of the movie.

According to an article in the Guardian (one of many media to cover this strange story), the police say that the break-in was done in a very “professional” manner, while Tuschi commented, “It’s like being in a bad thriller. (…)  Someone is trying to scare me and I must admit that they are succeeding.

While we have to spend the next few days tolerating the tedium ofconspiracy-cynics who will probably say this is just a publicity stunt,or, even worse, having to go through the motions of pretending that theKremlin would never be involved in such a robbery of a filmmaker(actually, the exact same thing happened to Andrei Nekrasov during thefilming of the Litvinenko doc), the strangest part is just howineffective these kinds of gestures are.  Now even more people will wantto see it, just as now even more people will be interested to readwhatever Luke Harding was writing or what Wikileaks has on the Russianleadership.

Robert Amsterdam had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Tuschi for manyinterview sessions over the years, and, if anything, he tells me, youcan expect the film to be rather moderate and balanced.  You’ll hearfrom plenty of Khodorkovsky critics, assailing him over thecontroversies of his wealth, right along with all the human rightsobservers and business interests.  It is hardly an item of propagandathat only shows one side of the story – but perhaps that’s what makes itso uncomfortable for the leadership….