• Germany's news in English

Khodorkovsky film premiering in Berlin shadowed by controversy

The Local · 9 Feb 2011, 08:51

Published: 09 Feb 2011 08:51 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

German director Cyril Tuschi told news agency AFP he aimed to shed light on the puzzling aspects of the ex-Yukos chief's case with his first documentary "Khodorkovsky," which will still screen as planned at the Berlin film festival Monday.

The film paints a nuanced picture of the man at the heart of Russia's most high-profile legal saga in interviews with family members, opponents, fellow travellers and, in the picture's riveting climax, Khodorkovsky himself.

Tuschi depicts the trials as a kind of "clash of the titans" between the country's richest man, before he was stripped of his assets, and its most powerful, then president Vladimir Putin.

The picture begins with an animated sequence dramatising Khodorkovsky's return from a business trip abroad on his private jet in 2003, when masked commandos stormed the plane and hauled him into custody.

"The mystery of why he came back to Russia is the main reason why I made the film," Tuschi, 42, told AFP in an interview the day before the break-in.

"Why would such a rational, clever, logical person make such an illogical mistake with both eyes open? I found this Shakespearean drama -- how someone who had reached such a high point could fall so far -- fascinating."

The picture goes on to explore how Khodorkovsky went from a dyed-in-the-wool student communist with a poster of Lenin on his wall to an oil oligarch and a potential threat to Putin.

"I came to the conclusion that the fact Khodorkovsky was maybe a bit smarter (than Putin) and perhaps better looking -- an absolutely basic macho conflict -- played a major role," Tuschi said, calling the trials "absurdist theatre."

Tuschi, whose great-grandfather was a wealthy businessman in Saint Petersburg, was cautious while filming in Russia.

"I was very German about everything -- I made sure all my applications, visas, papers, registrations were in order all the time to ensure there was never a pretext to give us trouble," he said.

"But while we were Siberia we were followed and, I believe, had our phones


While he was editing in Bali a few weeks ago, a hard disk with parts of the documentary were stolen from his hotel room.

Last week, burglars stole four computers on which interview out-takes and the finalised version of the film were stored from his Berlin offices, which were also vandalised.

Police said they are investigating the theft, which prompted furious speculation in the German and international press about possible Kremlin involvement.

Tuschi is reportedly now staying with friends for his own safety and has declined to speak with reporters. But he told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung: "Someone is trying to scare me and I have to say, they have succeeded."

Khodorkovsky, 47, was first detained in 2003, convicted of tax evasion two years later and handed an eight-year sentence. He was jailed for the second time in December on fraud charges and is to stay behind bars until 2017.

Story continues below…

The film comes to a close with a rare on-camera interview with Khodorkovsky, held in a cage-like cell in the courtroom, as a guard counted down the minutes allotted Tuschi by tapping his back with a machine gun.

"I believed that I had to stand up for myself in court," Khodorkovsky says, when asked why he returned to Russia to face trial rather than fleeing abroad. "I also believe in something called justice."

Tuschi said Khodorkovsky appeared driven by a sense of honour.

"I think that is how he manages to stay so strong, so centred, so calm in prison. That impressed me very much," Tuschi told AFP.

"I think if I were in the same situation I would sign anything, say anything to get out."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

12:10 February 9, 2011 by William Thirteen
shadowed by the FSB is more like it...
14:33 February 9, 2011 by catjones
The Berlin police (aka Men in Black) are hot on the trail. Flash! All is forgotten.
01:06 February 15, 2011 by scunnin
This man is part of an elite club of plunderers that robbed the Russian people blind as their socialist government crumbled.

This "Oligarch" does not deserve our pity for getting caught with a hand in the peoples cookie jar and you should be aware that his fellows in the UK and elsewhere are trying to keep the public eye on his case only to protect their own interests and not "justice" or "freedom".
Today's headlines
Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd