Are we watching a movie about an election? Or an election about movies?
What Vladimir Putin's regime insists on calling elections have, of course, always been all about political theater.
But if you've followed the news out of Russia in recent weeks, it actually appears to be more about political cinema.
First, we had the Culture Ministry's decision to ban Scottish director Armando Iannucci's highly acclaimed black comedy The Death Of Stalin, which lampoons the power struggles, intrigue, and backstabbing that followed the Soviet dictator's demise in 1953.
A film about what happens when a powerful authoritarian leader shrouded in a cult of personality passes from the scene clearly touched a nerve in the Kremlin as Putin prepares for what many in Moscow assume will be his last campaign.
But Iannucci's film wasn't the only one making headlines.
Two nominal opposition candidates, Ksenia Sobchak and Grigory Yavlinsky, have filed formal complaints over Russian state-controlled Channel One's rebroadcast of The Putin Interviews, Oliver Stone's four-part documentary film that is -- to put it gently -- extremely flattering of the Kremlin leader.
It will be interesting to see how that turns out, especially with Putin canceling his upcoming public appearances, apparently due to a cold.
In the absence of Putin, what would the Putin campaign do without movies about Putin?
As political commentator Oleg Kashin playfully wrote today in Republic.ru: "The symbol of Vladimir Putin's 2018 campaign is a television rerun of Oliver Stone's film about Vladimir Putin."
My guess is that the complaints will be rejected, which will only lead more people to watch Stone's documentary.
So it appears we are, indeed, watching a movie about an election and an election about movies -- all at the same time.
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