Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case

Directed By: Andrei Nekrasov


With the end of the cold war, spy-on-spy intrigue has taken a back burner in our popular consciousness. When a former KGB officer was found in a London hospital, dying from what turned out to be poisoning due to Polonium exposure, the international media went into a tizzy covering the event.

I had assumed that the poisoning would be the starting point for this doc, but I was pleasantly shocked to find out that in fact it’s the end of the doc. The titular “case” is not speaking to the (ongoing) investigation of his assassination; it’s in fact the case that Litvinenko makes for the manipulation of the Russian citizenry by Putin and his ex-KGB colleagues to push into Chechnya. Most damaging, he provides what he considers to be incontrovertible proof that Putin and his allies were behind a series of bombings in Moscow, attacks blamed on Chechen separatists but in fact (it’s argued) perpetuated in order to drive the country to war.

The documentary ties these charges to the rise of Putin from KGB leader to president of post-Communist Russia. The trail of bodies doesn’t end with Litvinenko’s – a number of the interviewees, including journalists and scholars, are killed sometime after they give interviews to the filmmakers.

This is a complex story, chillingly but unflinchingly (and bravely) told. It’s a powerful document to the corruptive influence of power and the ability of a nation to manipulate its citizenry effectively when the media is brought under its thumb. Astonishingly stark, this is a doc that’s not to be missed.

Grade: A-


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