Putin’s Kiss


Nashi, a pro-Kremlin “democratic anti-fascist youth movement,” provides fresh-faced, brightly attired teens the opportunity to promote the virtues of their motherland—and silence the opposition by preemptively occupying public places where protesters intend to gather. Additionally, the group has what reporter/blogger Oleg Kashin, the occasional narrator of Putin’s Kiss, describes as a “radical shadow battle wing,” whose hooligans are likely responsible for a range of menacing acts (including defecating on the hoods of ideological opponents’ cars). In a brisk 85 minutes, director Lise Birk Pedersen charts Nashi teen spokesperson Masha Drokova’s gradual disillusionment with the organization. Once the protégée to youth-group founder Vasily Yakemenko, striver Masha years ago made a splash by planting a kiss on Putin’s cheek. (News footage here shows her afterward proclaiming him the masculine ideal.) After losing a Nashi commissar election, she falls in with a crowd of liberal journalists (Oleg among them), and, after getting caught in the middle of some Kremlin-opposition cross fire, begins to disapprove of some of her former group’s more provocative aboveboard tactics. Interviews with Oleg and prominent oppositionist Ilya Yashin efficiently give some context to the former model youth’s reassessment of what she calls at one point “the most impressive subculture” available to her. But though Masha’s courage is considerable, her change of heart finally feels too nuanced for Pedersen’s streamlined political-drama treatment, complete with persistent intrigue music and scenes of Masha restating her dilemma to friends that seem rather canned.