By trade, a documentarian deals in records. Aleksandr Rastorguev was no exception. A prolific documentary filmmaker known for works critical of Russia’s political regime and business interests, he was found murdered with his crew on 30th July 2018. Three years later, director Evgeniya Ostanina reconstructs a picture of his life from B-reel footage, home video, and other scrapbooked recordings. Rastorguev unfolds as a full, fascinating picture of a life that still had its best work ahead. 

The film alternates between a clear chronology of the director’s life and work, including in a dangerous anti-Putin electoral campaign, and personal material without such a formal structure. While intertitles are cleverly used at key points, notably to illustrate the censorship and challenges Rastorguev faced in creating and attributing his work, most words come directly from the auteur himself. His is an intellectual, searching voice, never at a loss articulating his place among past Russian artists and dissenters. His more formal recordings are overlaid with soundless clips he captured when observing everyday life, and his home videos burst with love for his native Rostov-on-Don. In one of the film’s standout scenes, he is home with friends, all drinking in the kitchen. Suddenly he vehemently expounds on human grief and human potential for growth, his words quick and eloquent even as the camera is knocked out of focus. 

Rastorguev frequently discusses the criticism his work received for allegedly portraying Russian culture in a negative light for Western audiences. He denies this intention, saying that he shoots what he sees with love for its humanity. It is not his job to create the story, only to show it with truth and compassion. 

This intention and fundamental, quiet optimism informs every aspect of Ostanina’s patchwork biopic. Rastorguev is a stunningly constructed work that pays homage without hagiography. 



DIRECTOR: Evgeniya Ostanina

SYNOPSIS: After documentary director Aleksandr Rastorguev is murdered, archive material unearths his unused footage and life philosophies.