Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney says profiling exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky allowed him to explore power in Russia from the end of communism until now.
The resulting film, ‘Citizen K’, premiered at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday.
Gibney says Khodorkovsky has a unique perspective on how Russia works, having been at both the top and the bottom. Khodorkovsky, one of the richest men in Russia, spent a decade in prison after he was convicted on fraud charges that he claimed were politically motivated. He now lives in London and is a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I was totally in panic because I don’t like speaking a lot,” Khodorkovsky said at a festival news conference. “But Alex is always ready to understand....I don’t regret at all doing this work with him.”
He and Gibney did a series of extremely long interviews. The filmmaker said his subject “was very patient.”
The documentary was filmed with no official cooperation from Russia. Gibney said requests to interview Putin and spokesman Dmitry Peskov were denied.
“We had regular visas and acknowledged our role as filmmakers and journalists,” Gibney said. “[But we] had no access to official Russian archives.”
Gibney was drawn to his subject following the 2016 US presidential election and ‘Citizen K’ is “a cautionary tale.”
“I think that we Americans are somewhat haunted by Russia and curious about what goes on there,” he said. “Every film that I’ve done has been a call to citizens to understand power and its abuses and do what they can to ensure that power resides in the hands of the people.”
‘Citizen K’ played out of competition at the Venice Film Festival and does not currently have a release date.