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
Press kit: https://we.tl/t-fBOoTpou8u
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.
Directed by: Jessica Gorter
Script: Jessica Gorter
Editing: Katharina Wartena
Cinematography: Sander Snoep nsc
Sound recordist: Mark Wessner
Sounddesign and rerecording mixer: Hugo Dijkstal
Producer Russia: Oksana Maksimchuk
Executive producer: Elize Kerseboom
Produced by: Frank van den Engel
IN COPRODUCTION WITH EODOCS