Danish director Lise Birk Pedersen became interested in in documentary filmmaking when she traveled to China as a lone 16-year-old girl. Smelling change in the air and witnessing the “many great stories, contrasts and characters illustrating that” inspired her sketchbook drawings, but that didn’t satisfy her enough. She debuted her first short, doc “Margarita,” in 2003, and followed it up with several other shorts (including 2010 short “Nastya in Love”) before tackling her first feature, “Putin’s Kiss,” which now hits Sundance.
What’s it about? The documentary follows Masha Drokova, a rising star in Russia’s popular nationalistic youth movement, Nashi. She’s a smart, ambitious teenager who embraces Vladimir Putin and his promise of a greater Russia, and her dedication as an organizer is rewarded with a university scholarship, an apartment, and a job as a spokesperson. But her bright political future falters when she befriends a group of liberal journalists who are critical of the government; she’s forced to confront the group’s dirty—even violent—tactics.
Director Pedersen says, on the challenges of making the film: “Firstly, I don’t speak Russian and secondly making any film in Russia, speaking the language or not, is not a walk in the park. But, I think the biggest challenge was how to balance the many levels in my story. I had the ambition to tell the big story about Modern Russia through the eyes of my young protagonist with a classic coming of age style. But as the film progressed, I realized how the film also became this very symptomatic story of the bad political climate we find in Russia these days.”
On her inspirations: “In discussions with my cinematographer, we watchech ‘Blade Runner’ because some parts of Moscow reminds me of that universe: the mix of a modern and trashed old world. And how to balance the modern and the old Russia was a big visual discussion of ours. It was important to me that the visual image of the film was setting out in a modern world but with reminiscences of the old (Soviet) world. We also watched ‘Triumph of the Will,’ because there is a very telling sequence which has close-ups of the innocent faces of the German youth listening to propaganda. And we had this discussion of how we should portray how the Russian youth are captured by these seductive mass events that Nashi are so good at pulling of. I won’t say that these films inspired us they; were more like an entrance to our discussions.”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking here every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.