NEW YORK -- Masha Drokova, a compelling and articulate teenager, becomes disillusioned with the Russian youth organization Nashi after rapidly rising through the ranks to become one of its leading spokespeople in the documentary "Putin's Kiss
," which premiered in New York on February 17.
The film, which was directed by Denmark native Lise Birk Pedersen, premiered at Cinema Village in Manhattan. It begins in 2007, with Drokova speaking worshipfully of President Vladimir Putin -- even proclaiming that he was someone she would use as a model for a life partner.
Pedersen said that when she met Drokova -- who joined Nashi at 15 -- she didn't realize that she would be creating a film critical of Nashi or the Kremlin.
"Of course I knew that a lot of people -- you know, journalists -- were very critical toward Nashi, so I suspected that I could also end up being critical," Pedersen says, "but I didn't actually know this from the beginning."
But as the film progresses, teenage Drokova becomes friendly with a group of liberal journalists -- including Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, who features prominently in the film -- and eventually becomes disenchanted with Nashi and abandons the organization.
'Putin Was Sent By God'
The film's turning point occurs when Kashin is brutally beaten outside his home
in November 2010. Protesters demonstrated outside the hospital for eight days
, and on the third day Drokova appeared with a sign demanding that those who beat Kashin be prosecuted. She left Nashi soon afterward.
Oleg Kashin spent months recovering from the attack.
Kashin's attackers were never found. The last scene of the film takes place in the summer of 2011, where it becomes obvious that despite Drokova's defection from Nashi, a part of her still remains loyal to the organization. Kashin and Drokova meet at a cafe, and Kashin asks her if she regrets having been part of the movement. She answers "no."
He then asks her if she would regret joining if it was ever proven that Drokova's former mentor, Russian politician Vasily Yakemenko, was involved in the attack -- something he claimed to be 50 percent sure of
. Drokova looks uncomfortable, and then says she would be "really shocked" if it were true.
Drokova then quotes the Kremlin's former top political adviser, Vladislav Surkov: "Putin was sent to Russia by God."
Pedersen said the documentary will be shown in Russia shortly before this year's presidential election, scheduled for March 4. In the months leading up to the election, there have been large-scale protests drawing tens of thousands of Russians demanding democratic rights.
Pedersen said she had expressed her fear that Drokova, who is now working in public relations, could be targeted by authorities as a result of the film.
"Of course I also thought about how it could, of course, also affect her career, but could she be attacked, things like that," Pedersen said.
"And she all the time was telling me that she couldn't imagine at all that this would happen, she even got angry at me for asking about this."