A Conversation With a Wise Old Documentarist

Not that I planned to finish my evening balancing on the tip of a shabby wooden chair interviewing a famous documentary filmmaker. I only came to my university to see my thesis coordinator and discuss my progress. As soon as we were done, she handed me a folder, a CD, and an address.

I was to go to the other side of the city and deliver them to that very prominent old filmmaker. My opinion wasn’t really asked for, and you know you can’t say “no” to your thesis coordinator, for reasons quite understandable. Gotta defend this shit, after all. So on I went to the Ostankino area, Akademika Koroleva street. That’s the one that was always featured in all TV programs of my childhood – for mail from the audience. It’s pretty much a TV hub of the city, with biggest TV companies based in the area. It’s also hella annoying to get to.
But there I was, and the gentleman opened the door. He looked kinda sleepy, wearing sweatpants and a wifebeater. I handed him the folder, and he signed one of his books for me. I wasn’t in the mood and was not prepared, but I forced myself to ask him for a little interview for my thesis. I needed a few interviews in there after all, even that the guy wasn’t specifically a travel documentarist.
At first, we just talked about regular things. Like his favorite filming techniques etc. But then he turned patriotic, and oh well.
He was talking about that special thing no other nation in the world has, that Russian spirituality as opposed to American “emptiness”. He said America was all fake, and how, said he, how come great countries like France and Germany now be under the Americans?
I was listening to that old guy who lived a life full or experience, and seemingly, I was supposed to agree with everything he said. And yet… Yet that thought that I had in Berlin sitting by the Jewish memorial in the park, it came back straight away: that’s how it all begins, with one nation thinking itself more privileged and developed than any other. And I thought that yes, there he was, a man with a name, and me, a nobody, a student not yet out of university, with no theoretical knowledge of the subject whatsoever… But I traveled. I traveled 24 countries, and I didn’t see how Russians were different from any other nation. On average, every country has good and bad people, local traditions and some special national pride. What kind of special spirituality are we talking about? Survival skills? Being so used to the ground constantly shaking under your feet that it doesn’t bother you anymore? Living in poverty, with little hope that anything would change? Yes, we can call that Russian spirituality: accepting and living whatever comes your way. But it doesn’t make us privileged.
Yet again I saw how differently we people see the world sometimes. It’s so easy to juggle with facts. My director kept praising Putin as a great politician, and Obama, said he, was as good as some average clerk. I was blinking, smiling and playing the blonde. At some point I was really eager to get up and leave. But the guy wasn’t bad. He was just so perfectly brainwashed, years and years of propaganda layered in his mind with fleshy fruit ripe. At last, we said goodbye, and he said I could call him anytime if I needed any help. I thanked him.
It was chilly outside, night crawling closer and closer. I had that heavy feeling of some insincerity, some falseness of all that he said. I just had a very, very different opinion. And with all his grand knowledge, and love for all things poetic and philosophical, he was missing out some essential part. And that part’s called Die Welt – The World. I got yet another argument in support of traveling.


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