On Putin’s Blacklist has a mix of a movie that reflects the troubled relationship between the West and Russia. As expected. Sometimes there’s a tense tone.
In some segments there’s a comic resignation while watching a world in dysfunction. And in other scenes there’s sincerity in looking at the people caught in the crossfire. Which isn’t their fault.
Like the orphans who left Russia before its president, Vladimir V. Putin banned adoptions from pro-LGBT countries. One of them is Daria, who now lives in North America. She’s a gregarious girl who recounts her time at the orphanage.
And she does this as if it was an adventure and not a traumatic moment in her life. Testimonies like hers are the strongest moments in the film.
There’s also Daria’s adoptive mother Sara. Russia no longer allows her to adopt children there because of political reasons. Watching her talk about wanting to adopt and be unable to is heartbreaking.
However, the film sometimes switches away from her and to talking heads and news archives. And that leads to mixed results.
It shows how Putin’s ban became more popular in time and how he maneuvered for that to happen. He has many angles to support his ‘argument’. Like how these adoptions are a way for the West to steal Russian citizens away from the homeland.
It seems like director Boris Ivanov started to shoot this documentary back when the West insisted that children like Daria should have the chance to move to the West.
Sure, the frustration of Western lawmakers come across genuinely here. What adds to their frustration is that Putin is doubling down on laws to keep Russian citizens within its borders.
Putin’s also cracking down on dissidents and his opposition. The latter now have to make speeches within Russian diasporic communities instead of serving their constituents at home. Which is what they prefer.
The documentary is mostly about orphans. But it switches to talking about its propaganda machine. And the ways it illegally consolidated the annexation of Ukrainian land.
It discusses all of that and adds testimonies from Russia’s political refugees. It’s as if the film wants to be an all-encompassing document of Putin’s sins instead of focusing on one subject.
I am totally on the West’s side on this. And I have reasons to. But the film needs to argue its case against Putin in order to preach to those outside the choir.