1h 4min | Documentary | September 2003 (Canada)
Interviews with naval and military cadets in Russia explores such topics as male-bonding, hazing, patriotism, brotherhood and alcohol abuse.
It’s very clear from the beginning that the documentarian has a huge kink for Russian men in uniform. His opening narration tries to play it off as an interest in camaraderie and confident masculinity, but there’s no hiding his desire for hearing Russian men’s intimate stories of being in close quarters. And that’s how the movie starts, with steadily more lustful questions about spending so much time in the barracks with just men all around. But just when you think it’s going to run off with lusty sexual testimonies, the movie pulls the rug out from under you. The interviewees’ recounts of pranks quickly give way to stories of hazing. And these hazing stories are just awful: people being kicked, punched and abused, sometimes fatally. Every interviewee had their own story of someone they knew who had died because of hazing. The interviewees also gave accounts of the harsh hazing they themselves endured. The worst part was hearing some interviewees just play it off as nothing that bad, that the hazers were just pulling a prank or a really good joke. Some of the other interviewees didn’t brush things off as easily and you could tell they had really been emotionally scarred by the experience.
After hearing all those stories, the documentary switches back to the soldier’s professions of undying camaraderie and drunken friendship. Everything that had been so admired about the institution suddenly becomes completely hollow and fake. It’s really a stark transition, and one I doubt the filmmaker expected when he first set out on his trip. Even though the director intended to reveal deep-hidden carnal secrets, he managed to reveal far more shocking secrets about Russian military life. He had an uncanny knack for asking just the right questions, even when the interview went into waters he wasn’t ready for. In this process, he unexpectedly documented a widespread system of abuse that Russian censors have fervently denied.
Director: Steve Kokker
Country: Canada | Russia
Language: English | Russian
Release Date: 8 June 2004 (USA)
Also Known As: Kameraden