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A rather shocking insight into the social situation of today’s Russia is provided by the research documentary of the young Russian filmmaker Anna Šišova, who currently lives in Israel. “The New Greatness Case” follows a case that began back in 2018, and the film premiered right at the time of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. As it is a rather sensitive subject, a lot of it was filmed with a hidden camera, in secret, and in a horrifying way “The New Greatness Case” depicts how Russia really turned into a real dictatorship. Into a creepy police state ruled by censorship and persecution of dissidents, and the confessions of those accused of illegal activities are forced by shocking torture.

This film initially follows a 17-year-old girl from Moscow, Anja Pavlikova, who will soon find herself in pre-trial detention (and then under house arrest) due to accusations that she was a member of an extremist terrorist organization whose goal was to violently overthrow the current government. We can see how Anja and a few other young people like her and a few years older gathered first on a social network to discuss politics and the state of the country, and then they began to gather physically. They found a place, started putting together manifestos, organizing themselves, but very soon they were all arrested and put in jail on charges of terrorism. It soon turned out that the group The New Greatness was actually founded by agents of the Russian Secret Service (FSB) who infiltrated the youth and then designed the entire operation of the organization.

Three years after the police arrested all those kids and accused them of trying to stage a coup, Šišova follows the family of Anja Pavlikova as she tries to prove that her daughter is not an extremist or a terrorist. And it’s a real fight with windmills, and through the story of that process, Šišova brings an astonishing and shocking picture of Russian society. We see here how court processes are staged in the same way as during Stalin’s time and how political activism is being tried to be disabled in every possible way. Protests are banned and the organizers are punished, and policemen with batons are sent to peaceful protesters. People are thrown into prisons after their confessions have been previously extorted by gruesome torture that includes electric shocks and even rape with a baton on which a condom is placed.

It brings “The New Greatness Case” an even scarier, more shocking and sadder picture of Russia under Putin than we could ever imagine. The image of a state that has turned into repression, where every thought of critical thinking is tried to be killed and all those who are against the government are considered a danger. It’s a film that required a lot of courage to make, and although many Western countries do not have roses when it comes to civil liberties and human rights, Russia is clearly going back a century in this regard. This film had a good festival life, winning awards at the IDFA festival in Amsterdam, and Croatia was one of the countries of the co-producers.