The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes

What started as a docudrama about Sergei Magnitsky, the tax lawyer turned whistleblower who was assassinated in his prison cell in Russia, turned into a lengthy and shocking investigation by filmmaker and anti-Putin advocate Andrei Nekrasov. The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes is a two and half hour documentary that takes us on a journey as Nekrasov does some background research in order to make his film more realistic, but ends up unveiling enough evidence to conclude that this was one big political cover up.

For some background information, The Magnitsky Case is a central policy for blacklisting bad guys in Putin’s Russia, and this has been adopted by the West in retaliation for Russia’s actions in the Ukraine. The case is named after Sergei Magnitsky, who supposedly uncovered a Russian police plot to steal a billion dollars from US financier Bill Browder’s company, the Hermitage Trust Fund. Magnitsky was then assassinated in his cell for being a whistleblower and, thanks to Browder, the case gained worldwide attention that resulted in The Magnitsky Case.

Andrei Nekrasov is a filmmaker who has produced several films highly critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin. He was a friend of former Russian Federal Security Service officer Aleksander Litvinenko, who was killed by a radioactive substance in London in 2006, and his 2007 documentary about the case premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Nekrasov set out to make a docudrama about Magnitsky, but after having trouble believing how Magnitsky was assassinated, set out to do some background research into the story. As he conducts his research, he begins to unravel Browder’s fabrication which was designed to conceal his own corporate responsibility for criminal theft of the billion dollars which was stolen from the Russian government. As Browder’s widely accepted story collapses, Magnitsky is revealed not to be a whistleblower but a likely abettor to the fraud who died in prison not from assassination but from the banal neglect of his medical condiction.

This documentary has received countless threats and lawsuits from Browder, but despite that has managed to premiere at several major film festivals, including the Moscow Film Festival. At two and a half hours long, this documentary is undoubtedly a long journey through mountains of corporate documents and evidence, and we follow the mind of Nekrasov as he discovers the truth. This is a documentary not to be missed, if not for the politics and conspiracy but for Nekrasov’s excellent investigate journalism and thought process.

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Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.