Letter To Anna

Letter To Anna


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

This is the story of the brave journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006 following her persistent reporting on the Russian war in Chechnya.

The Swiss director, Eric Bergkraut, had worked with Anna on his earlier film, Coca: The Dove From Chechnya. Hearing of her death, he decided to make this film as a tribute to her, using some of the footage which he already had and interviews with those who knew her well.

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The voiceover in this English version is by Susan Sarandon, and the events of Anna’s last day are shown in reconstruction, though we see an image of Anna’s killer caught on CCTV as he leaves her apartment block. That the killer was never traced comes as no surprise. The poisoning of Litvinenko in London is also touched on, as are the murders of other journalists. This film puts the ultimate blame squarely on the then President Putin.

We are given only a minimum of background information on the situation in Chechnya. It is referred to as a 200-year war of independence and some call it genocide. Newsreel footage is used, together with video of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers, the tapes made by them as souvenirs and collected by Anna’s friend and colleague, Zainab. There is no attempt to present historical balance. The emphasis is on the abuse of human rights which was Anna’s concern.

Anna was known and trusted for her impartiality. This led to her being called in as a negotiator during the Moscow theatre siege and again to the Beslan school hostage tragedy, though on this occasion she narrowly escaped death when she was poisoned on the plane taking her there.

The film raises many questions. Despite the bravery of some of the interviewees, such as Anna’s editor Dmitry Muratov from Novaya Gazeta, I would have liked more answers. But by letting us hear the voices of those who knew her and particularly through the use of many strong closeups, we gain a picture of Anna as a brave, humane and beautiful person, which was Eric’s intention. What could have been simply a very sad film is ultimately uplifting.

Reviewed on: 11 Nov 2008
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Interviews with Russian activist and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya, plus an examination of what happened after her assassination.
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Director: Eric Bergkraut

Starring: Narrated by Susan Sarandon

Year: 2008

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Switzerland


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