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    Wining and dining one’s way to endless rule

    JOURNALISM: Despite imprisonment, journalist Khadija Ismayilova exposes the intricate corruption tactics of the families ruling Central Asia.

    Genuine political representation can’t be bought — but an illusion of respectable democracy is for sale with a surprisingly low price tag in Europe, according to The Caviar Connection, which screens at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival and shows how corruption at the highest levels in the Caucasus is hushed up on the global stage.

    The Caviar Connection, a film by Benoît Bringer
    The Caviar Connection, a film by Benoît Bringer

    «Caviar diplomacy»

    The film is directed by Benoit Bringer, who was part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017 for work on the Panama Papers leak. «Caviar diplomacy» is the term used for the strategy by which Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled for almost two decades and heads an authoritarian regime run like a family dynasty, is able to shore up his hold on power. He has harnessed the nation’s oil wealth to invest in prestige abroad and avoid foreign sanctions, paying mammoth sums for stars like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez to perform there, and influencing political players with expensive, luxury gifts, and, most brazenly, monetary bribes in the form of bank transfers. These associations serve to legitimise the regime in the face of its dismal record on human rights, its repression of dissent, and its incarceration of political prisoners. The brutal human consequences for those who do speak up are underscored in the film, as it sets out the experiences of several journalists from the former Soviet nation, who do their jobs at great risk to their own lives and safety, suffering reprisals and dirty set-ups to destroy . . .

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    Carmen Gray
    Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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