Film portrays murdered Russian journalist

Anna Politkovskaya in a still from a Swiss documentary Eric Bergkraut

A Swiss film director says the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated in Moscow in 2006 for being the bearer of too much bad news.

This content was published on February 3, 2008 - 10:38

The late journalist is the main protagonist in Eric Bergkraut's documentary An Article Too Many – the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya. The film will be premiered at a film festival in the German capital Berlin and is to be aired on Swiss public television later this month.

Bergkraut says he was impressed with her uncompromising stance in her work and her rigorous self-discipline. He had met Politkovskaya when he made a film about the human rights situation in the conflict region of Chechnya.

His latest production is based on interviews mainly with friends of Politkovskaya.

swissinfo: Do you know who killed Anna Politkovskaya and who was behind her murder?

Eric Bergkraut: The question about who masterminded the killing is interesting, and more relevant than asking who the murderers are - obviously contract killers.

I don't know who gave the order to kill her. But I'm convinced that the people who investigated the crime do know. They cannot reveal names for some reason.

swissinfo: Why did Anna Politkovskaya have to die?

E.B.: I think she was the bearer of too much bad news for the country. It was a case of killing the messenger.

swissinfo: What was Politkovskaya like?

E.B.: I met Anna four times, but we were not close friends. She was a person who considered life from many different angles. I got the impression that she worked with painstaking precision and was rigorous with herself. She came across as a considerate and nice person.

I don't think I would have been as interested in her if she had been a political person. I felt attracted to the apparent contradiction between the elegant, beautiful and well-mannered woman and the courage and the determination she displayed while seeking the truth.

swissinfo: Was she a person from a different era?

E.B.: Indeed. Mainly because of the way she pursued the truth. Her philosophy to help the weak and less fortunate was somewhat old-fashioned.

The same goes for her way to work as a journalist. In Russia as well as in the West there is a strong tendency to consider journalism as a kind of service job.

There is no civil society in Russia like in Switzerland. You have to realise that to understand what is going on. For decades the Russians have lived under authoritarian regimes that did not respect them. Anna had a very western attitude about this issue.

swissinfo: Why did you make the film?

E.B.: I would have had no reason to make the documentary without the four hours of material from my previous film Coca – the Dove from Chechnya. Anna also features in it. Those rushes are the backbone of the new film.

It is largely based on conversations and the idea that you portray a person through their friends. It's a case of "show me your friends – and enemies – and I'll tell you who you are". A more investigative approach would have been too dangerous. It's not my way of working and it would not have been successful.

I approach reality from different directions without blurring the picture. My documentary is a political film with a human touch.

swissinfo: Are you confident that your film will be shown in Russia?

E.B.: Coca was shown in 30 different countries except Russia. But at least there are copies of it on DVD and on the internet.

In my new film, there are some Russian officials, although only a few. We tried to interview President Putin. At least we managed to get the then justice minister on record for us in 2004. He told me proudly that Putin was in absolute control of the situation in Chechnya. Quite a statement when you consider the situation there at the time.

This justice minister by the way moved on to become the general prosecutor who was to investigate the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.

swissinfo-interview: Renat Künzi

In brief

Eric Bergkraut is the director and producer of An Article Too Many. The documentary will be broadcast on Swiss public television on February 18.

An English version of the film is on release in the United States. Actress Susan Sarandon voiced the commentary in the film. The film will be premiered at the Festival Cinema for Peace in Berlin on February 11.

Bergkraut, who was born in 1957, trained as an actor before he became a film director, producer and journalist.

His best-known film Coca – the Dove from Chechnya, portrays the Chechen human rights activist Zeynap Gashayeva. The documentary won several awards last year.

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Anna Politkovskaya

The journalist made a name for herself with her reports about Chechen conflict, notably about the atrocities committed by Russian forces against civilians and corruption.

The 48-year-old received death threats before she was murdered outside her apartment in Moscow in October 2006.

Those behind the murder are still not publicly known despite repeated calls by western media for the case to be solved. Speculation is rife that the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, was behind the killing.

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