The Dmitriev Affair

Deep inside the Russian forests, against the wishes of the authorities, 60-year-old Yuri Dmitriev searches for mass graves from the era of Stalin’s terror against his own people – until one day he is arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a penal colony. Following Yuri closely, the film paints a shocking picture of the way the Russian state rewrites history and treats its citizens.



Yuri Dmitriev exhumes what the Russian rulers would rather forget. After years of searching the pine forests of Karelia in northwestern Russia, he discovers a mass grave containing thousands of people who were secretly executed during Stalin’s “Great Terror” of 1937.

It is not the Russian government but Yuri Dmitriev who tracks down their identities in the archives and organizes commemorations for their next of kin. Thanks to his efforts, they finally find out what happened to their lost relatives. Having himself been left at a maternity clinic as a baby, he is a man on a mission: ‘Every human being has the right to know where they came from and where their family lies buried.’

While abroad there is increasing recognition for this “archaeologist of terror”, in Russia Dmitriev is discredited as someone collaborating with the West. Then he is arrested, on basis of a fabricated charge. Tragically accurate Dmitriev predicts his own future and that of his country.


Yuri Dmitriev has received several awards for his work, including the Sakharov Freedom Award and the Polish Gold Cross of Merit. Dmitriev was head of the Karelian branch of the now dissolved human rights organization Memorial, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.


World premiere: Krakow Film Festival, June 2nd, 2023. Tickets.

Dutch premiere: Eye Film Museum, June 8th, 2023



★★★★ “Earnest, impressive documentary… …shows how Putins repression grows”  – de Volkskrant (Dutch daily newspaper)

Read the review of the Volkskrant here.


★★★★ “Staggering portrait of a Russian historian and activist Yuri Dmitriev” – Trouw (Dutch daily newspaper)

Read the review of Trouw here.


★★★★ “Yuri Dmitriev is the hero of The Dmitriev Affair” – NRC Handelsblad (Dutch daily newspaper)

Read the review of the NRC here.


“I understand if – with all that is coming at us from Ukraine – you don’t feel like going to see a documentary about an imprisoned Russian. But do it anyway! This is a fantastic film that very well exposes the mechanism as a result of which also the Ukraine war could happen.” – Derk Sauer

Read the artikel from Derk Sauer, Parool here. 


In ‘The Dmitriev Affair,’ Gulag Historian’s Persecution Is a Microcosm of Putin’s Russia  The Moscow Times

Read the review of The Moscow Times here.


Press kit: 




2024 ArtDocFest, Riga                  

2024 HUMAN IDFF, Oslo             

2024 Thessaloniki IFF                   

2024 Chamber of Deputies Cinema, Czech Republic   

2024 One World, Prague

2024 Gariwo, Milan                        Screening at award ceremony of Gariwo Righteous Prize

2024 Art House Cinema Zita, Stockholm

2024 GoEast Film Festival           


FESTIVALS & AWARDS:                                                                              

2023 Krakow IFF                              Nomination WATCH DOC award

2023 Dutch Film Festival              Nomination Golden Calf

2023 DOC NYC

2023 Verzio FF, Budapest            Best Human Rights Film Award

2023 WATCH DOCS, Warsaw     

2023 This Human World, Vienna




900 Days

The Red Soul


  • Director Jessica Gorter was awarded the Best Human Rights Film prize at the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Budapest for The Dmitriev Affair. Congratulations to the entire crew and cast!...

  • Festive news for Zeppers! Two of our films have been nominated for a Golden Calf in the category ‘Best Feature Documentary’. The Dmitriev Affair by director Jessica Gorter and My Big Brother by director Mercedes Stalenhoef are competing for the coveted award. The Netherlands Film......


Jessica Gorter

Jessica Gorter - De Rode Ziel

Jessica Gorter is a Dutch documentary filmmaker. She studied directing and editing at the Dutch Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam. Her films are screened worldwide at film festivals, theatrically released and broadcasted internationally. Gorter made her breakthrough with 900 Days (2011) about the myth and reality of the Leningrad blockade. The film won a.o. the IDFA Award for Best Dutch Documentary, the Prix Interreligieux at Visions du Réel and the special jury prize at ArtDocFest in Moscow. In 2014 Jessica received the prestigious Documentary Award from the Dutch Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund for her work.

Earlier in her career she made the short poetic documentary Ferryman across the Volga (1997, Prix de RTBF) and Piter (IFFR, 2004): a captivating look into the lives of seven residents of Saint Petersburg at a turning point in history. In her third feature-length documentary The Red Soul (2017), the director investigated why Stalin is still seen as a hero by so many Russians. With her latest documentary The Dmitriev Affair (2023) Gorter continues the theme of the films she has been making in Russia since the 1990s: laying bare the consequences for individual lives of the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


Director and scenario Jessica Gorter

Camera Sander Snoep nsc

Sound Mark Wessner

Editor Katharina Wartena

Sounddesign and rerecording mixer: Hugo Dijkstal

Producer Russia: Oksana Maksimchuk

Commissioning Editor EOdocs Margit Balogh

Line producer Elize Kerseboom

Producer Frank van den Engel