In his propulsive and shockingly candid new film, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney traces the path of Russian billionaire-turned-prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky from oligarch to activist.
Once a notorious “gangster capitalist” known for a vast fortune through unscrupulous dealings, exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky is now an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime. Through archival footage and interviews with Khodorkovsky and others, director Alex Gibney (Zero Days, PFF25) tracks this remarkable transformation. In the early ’90s, Khodorkovsky became a symbol of the cultural and economic openness in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union when he created the nation’s first commercial bank and established Yukos, Russia’s biggest oil company. For a time, he was believed to be Russia’s richest man. Only after openly criticizing Putin did Khodorkovsky taste the limits of personal freedom in modern Russia, leading to a harrowing series of show trials and a ten-year sentence in a Siberian prison. Now a leading proponent of democracy, Khodorkovsky remains a fascinatingly slippery figure, whose present principled position doesn’t quite overshadow his shady past. In Gibney’s expert hands, Khodorkovsky’s story has the propulsive force of a political thriller. Yet it’s one that, given the resurgent prominence of Putin in America’s own national discourse, has chilling real-world implications.
In Competition: Documentary Feature Award
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