Film: Nine Lives of Nestor Makhno (Ukraine/Russia)
The fifth son in a poor family, Nestor Makhno was given by his parents to work as a farmhand, then worked as a house painter and a day laborer. At 16 he joined the anarchist "Union of poor farmers," participated in the "expropriation of the expropriated," was condemned to be hanged but pardoned in diference to his young age and sent to prison. 12 years at the Butyrka, shackles, tuberculosis and... reading incessantly.
The February 1917 revolution brought freedom from prison. A new life began -- the first communes are created, a wedding takes place, his son is born. However, all ended unexpectedly soon. In March 1918, the Germans occupied the Ukraine, installing hetman Skoropadskiy. The "communes" disappeared without a trace. Makhno loses his wife and son, kidnapped by his revolutionary friends who're convinced that the struggle for freedom can't be allowed to drown in the trappings of family life.
[Guess what all the kids are seeing?]
Makhno gathers a partisans army. People follow him, he's a good explainer, people listen to him. "We'll have no choice but to take up arms against the enemies of our freedom until they cease using arms against us. Our enemies persist even though they know that all working people no longer accept voluntary wage slavery and furthermore strive to become free and independent of all forms of slavery."
The partisans carry out successful actions against the Germans, the Whites and various self-appointed rulers. The people refer to 30-year-old Makhno as "Bat'ko" [roughly means Father]. Antonov-Ovseenko arrives from Moscow to award Makhno the "Red Star" medal...
Makhno's fame travels far and wide. An entire army carries out his orders. He's taken seriously by Lenin, Froonze and Trotsky. Yet he feels lonely and longs for nothing other than human affection. And, as it sometimes happens -- an unexpected meeting in a village school -- a village techer becomes Makhno's wife, shares all the burdens of his life.
For the majority the revolution is a struggle for political power but for Makhno it's a struggle for a free society. A struggle under one's own banner. He never negotiated with the Whites but thrice joined forces with the Reds. However, these alliances could not last because the Bolsheviks did not allow for any deviation or any freedom. The differences with the Reds were becoming principled and were decided by way of the sword: "state socialists together with the enemies of workers' interests think up new ways to prevent working people from winning their right to a free and independent life. All of these bums do their best to avoid all work, to have everything handed to them by working people and to rule over them to their detriment."
"Death or victory -- this is what's at stake for the Ukranian peasantry... But they can't kill us all, there're too many of us, we're humanity, therefore we will win." Makhno the anarchist was ready to fight but the people were too tired to continue. They wanted to live and were ready to share their harvest, to stay alive and retain some hope. They didn't choose Makhno's way and he was forced to flee abroad. On the way, the bullet that hit the back of his head came out through his cheek, leaving a scar on his face that resembled a saber wound. This was his last wound...
The law of any armed conflict is severe: let down your guard even a little and you'll end up on your knees. Prodrazvestka (surplus-appropriation system), collective farms, starvation and work from dawn to dawn. The work gave rise to the Dneproges (Dnepr river damn), the river water rose, the Dnepr river settled down. Makhno died in 1934 in Paris from neglected tuberculosis, which got worse after a flu infection, leaving history the black flag of liberty...
The Actors: Pavel Derevyanko, Ada Rogovzceva, Kiril Pletnyov, Daniil Belykh, Oleg Primagenov, Igor Gnezdilov, Lesya Samayeva, Anna Slyou, Anna Ukopova, Natalya Soldatova
Screenplay by Igor Bolgarin and Victor Smirnov
Directed by Nikolai Kaptan
Music by P. Mel'nichook-Krakhmalyov
Executive produced by Felix Kleiman and Victor Prikhod'ko
Produced by Vladimir Dostal'
The 12-part film will be shown on the ORT channel in Russia and RTVi around the world in the second half of 2006.