The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov
Protsess: Venemaa riik Oleg Sentsovivastu
Impact | VIFF Impact
This terse, angry film relates the story of how a free spirit came to be locked away. Oleg Sentsov is professional gamer turned filmmaker who, following the annexation of Crimea, finds himself up against the Russian authorities. Dubiously charged with terrorism, he proclaims his innocence from a caged cell in court; those bars are just one of the signs of state oppression we see. The trial footage is a highlight of the film: even caged up, Sentsov is a compelling presence. His face registers a mixture of cynical bemusement and wide-eyed engagement, and his caustic words to the court are a delight.
Elsewhere we meet his family, learn the background to his plight, and hear statements of support from fellow filmmakers such as Agnieszka Holland and Krzysztof Zanussi. What emerges is a portrait of political defiance and the outrages that serve to validate it. The film wouldn’t be complete without the blank-faced bully of Eastern Europe, Vladimir Putin. Needless to say, he’s not a willing interviewee; we see him on TV addressing Sentsov’s plight, and his presence looms large over this account of injustice—indeed, it’s there in the accounts of torture, the surveillance choppers over a civil protest and every other bit of evidence in this indictment of Russian authoritarianism.