Movie Blog MSPIFF Spotlight: ‘Russian Lessons’

By Jonathon Sharp, WCCO

Russian Lessons is a structurally strange and intense documentary on the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. If you recall that incident, you’ll remember reading conflicting reports on which side started the fight and for what reasons. Russian Lessons argues that Russian was behind the war and that it even may be guilty of war crimes.

The movie’s tag-team director couple – Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekrasov- approaches the war, as it takes place, from both the Russian and the Georgian fronts. In doing so, they witness and rather frankly record the devastation – that is, you’ll see the charred and bloodied bodies of the dead, children included; you’ll see unabashed weeping; you’ll see people whose lives are broken by the brutality of war. It’s graphic and, on an even darker note, the war stories you’ll hear are unforgettable in the most tragic sense.

So be warned: Russian Lessons isn’t for the weak of heart. Also, know that it keeps a fast pace. If you don’t speak Russian, you’ll likely find it difficult to follow the images, read the subtitles and make sense of the ethnic relations politics in the Caucasus. This isn’t a criticism of the film, for it seems to have been made for a Russian audience. However, it is difficult to keep the stories, which are often conflicting, straight, especially when one, as a viewer, knows hardly a thing about Ossentians, Georgians or Abkhazians.

So here is my recommendation: if you are in the mood for something of substance on a Monday night, something real, something unique, something intense, see Russian Lessons. (Theater 3, 5 p.m.)



All shows are playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. For the complete festival schedule, click here. An alphabetical listing of all the movies being shown can be found here. Ticket information is here.


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