Assassinated outside the Kremlin, the dissenting politician has become something of a cult figure and is the subject of films, poetry and song
BY JULIE MASIS for the Times of Israel, April 8, 2017
Two years on, Russia hasn’t forgotten the tragic murder outside the Kremlin of Boris Nemtsov, the Jewish anti-Putin politician.
He’s become something of a cult figure in a country known for silencing dissenters. There are now at least four films out about the martyred man, and some put the number as high as eight. At least two of the documentaries are the work of Russian Jewish artists.
Filmmaker Zosya Rodkevich, 26, had been interviewing Nemtsov on video for three years, ever since the 53-year-old politician unexpectedly invited her — a 22-year-old girl at the time — to share his private compartment on an overnight train. She accepted for the sake of her project, a short news piece she was going to post on YouTube.
She considered it a chance to get to know her subject more intimately — a rare opportunity for a filmmaker, she said. And she didn’t stop rolling on her small camera even as the famous politician turned out the light, fell asleep and began snoring.
In the film, we hear him talk as an older man might with a much younger woman.
“When I was your age, it seemed to me that if a person was 30, 40 or 50 years old they were already prehistoric animals, like mammoths. But I feel normal now,” he says in a sleepy voice, with his eyes closed.
As time went on, Nemtsov would invite Rodkevich to come along on his trips and to participate in political rallies as a member of the media. Their paths intersected so often that they developed a friendship — but nothing more, clarifies Rodkevich.
She focused the camera on him not only in public but also in a variety of more personal environments — at home, the barbershop, and at the gym.
“80% of the time, he talked about himself,” Rodkevich says. “He didn’t suffer from low self-esteem. He was very narcissistic. He was in love with himself. In normal life, I don’t get along with such people.”
She qualifies that, saying that he may have been narcissistic, but he wasn’t a selfish man. Though he may have been somewhat vain — he took good care of himself, always ate well and exercised regularly — he was also interested in the welfare of his motherland. He held important posts in the government, but gave it all up and joined the opposition because he cared about his country, Rodkevich says.
Her film contains footage of Nemtsov running on the treadmill — sometimes the only time for an interview he found in his busy schedule. In that clip, short of breath and with his shirt drenched in sweat, Nemtsov talks about having had children from three different women and worrying about not being the best father.
“I think he liked being videotaped while he was running, shaking his muscles and sweating,” Rodkevich says.