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The Red Soul

A film by Jessica Gorter

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"The Red Empire is gone, but the 'Red Man' remains. He endures." —Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Prize for Literature, 2015)

Why do so many Russians still defend Joseph Stalin as a great leader and a hero? Is Stalin a hero who led the Soviet Union to victory, or should he be held responsible for the millions of victims who died during his reign?

The Red Soul lays bare the Russian psyche of today and shows a world full of contradictions. In a country where hardly any family escaped the hunger, fear and violence resulting from Stalin’s reign of terror, no one has ever been convicted for the crimes committed under his regime. Even now, more than 50 years after Stalin’s death, Russians remain deeply divided over how to deal with the memories of this painful past.

In a mosaic of intimate portraits, ordinary Russians—both young and old—speak openly about their traumas, rooted in a violent history. Tales of pain alternate with tales of pride. Nostalgic stories of a state flourishing under the Communist ideal contrast with painful memories of hunger, violence and betrayal. Not infrequently, these conflicting views can be found in one and the same person. Gradually, this intriguing film exposes how the Soviet past lives on in current generations, and thus makes its mark on the future.

"Highly recommended! In this brilliant and fascinating film, the award-winning documentary filmmaker Jessica Gorter explores nostalgia for Stalin and his era in modern-day Russia." —Dr. Andrew Jenks, California State University, in Educational Media Reviews Online

"Ambitiously intriguing, sensitive and expert; examines the palette of clashing colors along Russia’s political spectrum. A useful, intelligent primer [that] moves fluently between big cities and extremely remote rural areas." —Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

"Recommended! Never points a finger of blame or judgement towards the Russian people, but simply shows their fascinating, worrisome struggle with their own recent history." —Kaj van Zoelen, Frameland

"In her thoughtful exploration of the troubling legacy of Joseph Stalin, Jessica Gorter interviews Russians of varying ages. Some refuse to condemn atrocities of the past, while others strive to keep them from being forgotten." —Kristin M. Jones, The Wall Street Journal

"A striking documentary that avoids moralizing and easy answers; The Red Soul counters traditional stereotypes about Russia and highlights the complexity of Russians' views not just of Stalin, but of Soviet history." Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University

"The issues the film raises could not be more timely given recent troubling developments around these sites of memory and the people who work with them. The film effectively introduces the viewer to one of the most prominent debates in recent post-Soviet history: the politics of memory in relation to state violence." —Dr. Volha Isakava, Central Washington University

"Elegantly shot and intellectually probing.
" —Frank Sweitek, Video Librarian

"Chilling, revealing! Responding to a recent survey that found roughly half of Russia’s population to consider Joseph Stalin their favorite historical figure, director Jessica Gorter [investigates] the country’s relationship to its legacy of authoritarianism." —Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader

World Premiere, Official Selection, 2017 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
Official Selection, 2018 World Convention, Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN)
Official Selection, 2017 ArtDokFest Moscow
Official Selection, 2018 One World Human Rights Film Festival, Prague, Czechia
Official Selection, 2018 One World Human Rights Film Festival, Romania
Official Selection, 2018 One World Human Rights Film Festival, Belgium
Official Selection, 2018 Tempo Documentary Festival, Sweden
Official Selection, 2018 Docs Against Gravity Film Festival, Poland
Official Selection, 2018 Crossing Europe Film Festival, Austria
Official Selection, 2018 ZagrebDox Documentary Film Festival, Croatia

90 minutes / Color/B&W
Russian / English subtitles
Release: 2018
Copyright: 2017

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Communism, History, History (Cold War Era), Historiography, Politics, Russia, Soviet Union, Stalin

Watch the trailer:

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