In the heart of demonstration

(Translated from English by Google Gtranslate)

In The Case, Nina Guseva, a graduate of the workshop of acclaimed Russian documentary filmmaker Marina Razbezhkina, goes to the very heart of the legal nihilism created during the long rule of Vladimir Putin.

Structured around the story of charismatic lawyer Maria Eismont, who defends the predominantly young people arrested on numerous protests against the democratic deficit increasingly evident in Russia, The Case is a film with a strong backbone, benefiting from its heroine Eismont, and hero Konstantin Kotov, a social activist, arrested who was sentenced to four years in prison after being arrested at an anti-Putin demonstration in the centre of Moscow in the summer of 2019.

The Case, a film by Nina Guseva
The Case, a film by Nina Guseva

Moral compass

Eismont and Kotov are characters with crystal clear moral compasses: they are both passionate about allowing Russia – as Eismont observes, a country of many intelligent and responsible people – the democratic freedom to permit it to truly flourish for all, not just for a tiny minority that is close to the inner circles of the Kremlin.

The film opens on the very frontlines of protest, the camera (operated by Guseva herself) in the thick of the crowd on a protest declared illegal as helmeted riot police push in, wielding long rubber truncheons against defenceless people when they don’t get their way.

«We are unarmed!» the protestors chant, referencing Article 31 of the Russian Constitution that specifically permits peaceful protest. The crowd switches to «Pozor!» (Shame) as the black-uniformed thugs wade in.

The crowd switches to «Pozor!» (Shame) as the black-uniformed thugs wade in.

The mass protests – in and around Tverskaya ulitsa (formerly Gorky Street) Moscow’s fashionable central shopping avenue – that centre on demands for fair elections had been declared illegal by authorities. More than 2,700 people were arrested and hundreds injured.

Konstantin – known as Kostya – Kotov, escaped arrest at that demonstration but was picked up at the next, in mid-August. Drone footage obtained by Eismont showed that he was doing nothing other than walk across a small square, carrying a backpack with some rolled-up posters (that included such incendiary slogans as «For Fair Elections!») when he was seized by police, giving the lie to claims in the prosecution case that he was part of a column of 150 slogan-shouting protestors.

The Case, a film by Nina Guseva
The Case, a film by Nina Guseva

Article 212.1

Most demonstrators at protests of this kind in Russia are brought before a judge and sentenced to an «administrative» punishment – usually a fine or 15 . . .

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Nick Holdsworth
Our regular critic. Journalist, writer, author. Works mostly from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
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