One of the films a few critics I know are looking forward to at this year’s Sundance is a documentary called 211:Anna, about the 2006 assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Screening several times this week, this is not the first film about Politkovskaya, but it is unfortunately the first one to make its debut amid another high profile murder in Moscow’s streets: This week 34-year-old human rights attorney Stanislav Markelov and 25-year-old freelance journalist Anastasia Baburova were shot in cold blood near the Kremlin following Markelov’s press conference contesting the early release of a Russian colonel found guilty of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen girl. Markelov died immediately, Baburova, who apparently tried to intervene after Markelov was shot in the back of the head by a masked man carrying a gun with a silencer, went into a coma and died Monday evening. Writer Keith Gessen, who that day had been turned away from the Moscow courthouse where a trial involving three men accused in Politkovskaya’s murder was taking place, was close by when it happened.
211:Anna‘s Italian director will no doubt be pressed to comment in Park City. Films like hers are necessary, if only to help try and confront the world (especially our world) with the brazen, murderous corruption that is rampant at the highest levels in countries that we consider diplomatic allies, and the danger that journalists and activists who simply attempt to do their jobs face. I was reminded of this extremely powerful letter; it was written by Lasantha Wickramatunga, a Sri Lankan journalist and editor who predicted his own death, and wrote defiantly about the pursuit of a free press that cost him his life. Journalists face any number of threats: Veronica Guerin was killed by drug dealers; Daniel Pearl by terrorists. But in a free country with a free press, they are not supposed to be killed by their own goverment. In the cases of both Wickramatunga and Politkovskaya–and now lawyer Markelov–there is little doubt and mounting evidence that the order of death was issued by the state.
Here’s a good question: why has there not been a biopic of Martin Luther King Jr.? Moving Picture magazine asks it at greater length and with more eloquence than I just did.
Stephen Soderbergh gave a surprise sneak preview of his upcoming film The Girlfriend Experience at Sundance last night. The film stars porn star Sasha Grey and, apparently, film critic Glenn Kenny. Good God that’s awesome! Glenn was there the night a couple of weeks ago when a bunch of us (too many of us) sat around a table and blabbed about 2008 in film. You won’t have trouble identifying the two or three things I manage to squeak in because I was the only girl there. Make her talk! Make the chick talk! We are not a boy’s club!! Listen close and you can hear me snicker every time Aaron Hillis uses the term “front-loaded.”
Filmcatcher has a nice daily round-up of Sundance coverage, including interviews with players from the festival’s breakouts, like Tyson, You Won’t Miss Me, and Humpday. An Education, the Nick Hornby-scripted ’60s coming-of-age film starring Peter Saarsgaard and Carey Mulligan, is the clear favorite so far.
Lowbrow alert: Testosterone gets the best of a film critic and film producer (and apparent Big Lebowski inspiration) Jeff Dowd in Park City. Dude!
Bonus ambient sound link: Listen to chief Weezer and subject of my extremely rare short-guy crush Rivers Cuomo on Fresh Air this morning.