Convenient interlocutor: why Putin's choice fell on Oliver Stone

The American television channel Showtime began broadcasting Oliver Stone's documentary about Putin. The goal is to help Americans understand the mentality of the Russian leader, but experts doubt that the filmmaker will succeed.
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American television channel Showtime on June 12 began showing Oliver Stone's documentary "The Putin Interviews", based on conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. American journalists have already had access to the first two episodes of four and retold them. Simultaneously with the US, Stone's film is released in the UK and Germany. The picture was also bought by France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Turkey, Israel, Iceland, Australia, China.

Talks were held between July 2015 and February 2017. During this time, Stone met repeatedly with Putin, the last time - after the election of the US president, which won the Republican Donald Trump. The first series tells about the events that took place before the US presidential election, because they sound questions about the presidential campaign in the US and the candidates, in particular about the socialist democrat Bernie Sanders, whom Stone supported during the primaries.

In the first episode, the Russian president answers questions about the family - father-front-line soldier, brother, who died during the siege of Leningrad, about the beginning of a great political career. Putin also talked about the expansion of NATO and economic sanctions, personal welfare, the situation in Ukraine and Syria, the relationship between Moscow and Washington, as well as the possible intervention of Russia in the US elections. "Unlike many of our partners, we never interfere in the internal political processes of other countries," Putin said. In the trailer for the film, there is also a Russian president's phrase that no one will survive in the war between Russia and the United States.

In an interview Putin said a famous quote that he "does not have bad days," since he is not a woman, but also tells how in Russia there are people of non-traditional sexual orientation. In response to a question about the oppression of gays, Putin said that there are no violations of gay rights. The director asks if Putin would go gay in a shower on a submarine. "I would prefer not to go showering with him. Why provoke it? But you know that I am a master of sports in judo, "Putin said.

The president also talks about the former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Edward Snowden, showing his controversial attitude to the informant. In particular, the Russian president does not consider Snowden a traitor, because "he did not betray the interests of his country and did not pass on to any other country any information that would damage his people." "Everything he does, he does publicly," Putin added, while noting that he does not agree with what Snowden is doing.

"Exculpation, but little skepticism"

While the first series of four came out, it is already possible to judge on the basis of Stone's tone and sympathy for the Russian president, critics note. The American director conducts an interview with Putin, not asking uncomfortable questions to the Russian president, but playing along with him and giving him an opportunity to express his views on international and political problems, the newspaper The New York Times notes. The first interview that Stone spent with Putin took place during the filming of Snowdun in Russia. Against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US elections, the testimony of former director of the FBI James Komi on the US Senate Intelligence Committee, the documentary "Interview with Putin" gets international resonance, the newspaper writes.

Stone gives the floor to the Russian president to challenge the American neo-conservatives who believe that the US won the Cold War, but at the same time, the American director is too "magnanimous" to his interlocutor, the New York Times notes. He gives Putin the opportunity to justify Russia's "aggression" in Ukraine, oppressing the opposition inside the country and granting political asylum to Edward Snowden, the publication stresses. "Overwhelming, but little skepticism," sums up The New York Times, describing Stone's film about Putin.

Stone is convenient for Putin interlocutor, writes the edition of Foreign Policy. When they discuss the family of the Russian president, the director is satisfied with the answer that Putin's daughters are engaged in science and education. Stone "contributes" to Putin, who keeps silent the inconvenient facts for him and "promotes" theories of conspiracy, writes Foreign Policy.

For example, Stone does not question Putin's words, Foreign Policy notes when the Russian leader claims that the US allegedly provided technical support to Chechen terrorists during the first and second Chechen wars. Despite the fact that Putin can not provide him with evidence of US involvement in support of militants, Stone takes his words on faith, writes Foreign Policy.

However, Stone himself says that he asked the President of Russia inconvenient questions and tried to press the pain points. The director believes that US politicians misunderstand Putin, whom he calls an incomprehensible person. Stone is sure that if Washington considers the Russian leader as the main enemy, then he must learn it from all sides.

Shortly before the premiere, Stone said that his work is an attempt to prevent further deterioration of Russian-American relations. After the film's premiere, the director told The Nation magazine that Russia and the United States should be allies, not enemies, because they have "many common interests," including the struggle against international terrorism. According to him, he decided to make a film about Putin, as the Western media demonized his image from February 2007. Stone believes that the film allows you to look at international problems from the position of the Russian leader and can "contribute to peace, harmony or a better understanding of [Russia]."

Those who want to understand Putin's thinking will be happy after watching Stone's documentary, believes Peter Kuznik, a professor of history at the American University in Washington, who in 2012, in collaboration with Stone, published the book The Untold Story of the United States. "Oliver provides a platform for Putin, in which he expresses his views. In this case, Putin's words are not censored. The goal is that Putin reveals himself to the viewer, "said Kuznick RBC.

Putin's reputation in the West has long been formed, and a new film, all the more removed by Stone, a well-known denouncer of US imperialism, is unlikely to be able to change it somehow, Ivan Tsvetkov, associate professor of the Department of American Studies at St. Petersburg State University, believes. However, at the same time, American society is now experiencing an obvious crisis associated with the massive discontent of Trump, and against this background, amazing metamorphosis in the mass consciousness is possible, the expert argues. "Putin in the minds of Americans can unexpectedly combine in himself two opposite hypostases - the main external demonic force and rational, consistent, effective leader, which is so lacking in modern America," said RBC Tsvetkov.

"After a very successful career in the film industry, Stone acquired the reputation of a conspiracy," said former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a professor at Stanford University, told RBC. "He perfectly tells stories in his feature films, but he is not taken seriously as a journalist when it comes to real facts and history."

Who is Oliver Stone?

Oliver Stone - three times laureate of the Academy Award Oscar. He made a lot of films, including "Born on July 4", "Wall Street", "Platoon", "Born Killers", "Nixon", "Alexander", "Snowden" and others. Stone was always interested in conspiracy theories. One of his most famous films is "John F. Kennedy. Shots in Dallas, "in which he considers the version that Kennedy's assassination is a conspiracy of intelligence agencies. Stone was criticized for undermining confidence in the American authorities. The director also followed with interest the life of authoritarian leaders and made documentaries about Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and other left-wing leaders of Latin American countries. In his documentary series "The Untold Story of the United States," Stone looks at the history of the United States from the position of a socialist.