Far Eastern Golgotha – ★★★ 1/2

Far Eastern Golgotha – ★★★ 1/2

Julia Sergina’s always engaging debut feature documentary looks at Russian taxi driver turned political vlogger Viktor Toroptsev as he struggles with his fight against a state resolute in silencing him. Far Eastern Golgotha is a compelling look at activism.

Taxi driver Viktor Toroptsev is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. When Viktor starts sharing his opinions on a YouTube channel, his life finds purpose – but also danger. Can one person make a difference in the face of an oppressive political regime?

Life has not been easy for those in the eastern side of Russia, so far from their capital city that they may as well be on another continent; these are rough determined people who keep their heads down and do their best to do what has been given to them. That is except for Viktor Toroptsev, who sees the unbalanced nature of his country’s economy and demands a change. For the proud Easterner’s to not just rely on Chinese investment, but for them to be made to feel a part of their own nation.

As Victor tries to gain momentum in his grassroots cause, he meets quite a powerful and menacing force in the shape of Russian authorities. Determined to break down the activist financially or mentally, they use everything within their power to silence Viktor. At times Far Eastern Golgotha is an uneasy watch as we realise just how lucky some of us have it in our current social climate.

Sergina keeps her distance throughout the documentary and allows the fly on the wall nature of her film to bring some fantastic moments. Not only do we see moments of Viktor’s successes, but also his failures and the fears that reside within him, his colleagues and his family. What he is doing is dangerous in a country like Russia. The death of Alexei Navalny makes that abundantly clear. So, for us to watch as the unlikeliest of men faces off against the might of a nation is riveting.

There are moments, of course, where you wish someone on the production would take a step forward to help guide Viktor, but by remaining true to her film, we see him try and work things out for himself, no matter the consequences of said actions. Far Eastern Golgotha is a careful film showing his struggle and how difficult it is to get such a movement off the ground. We see colleagues review what he said and how he said it at a public meeting with officials, leaving us to wonder how he would have gotten to where he has without the help. Although he has a strong and sure voice, he has no way of broadcasting that voice out to the masses.

Far Eastern Golgotha stock rises further when we see the life that Viktor carries on with and what he has gone through. We quickly note his self-destructive nature that makes a reoccurring appearance throughout the runtime. He has had a difficult childhood, and he wants the best for his family. Still, by limiting his income potential because of his activism, he is causing friction and rinse and repeat scenarios with his own children. As often is the case with activists who dream big and go in with both feet, he has lapses in remembering what and who he is doing this all for.

Interestingly since viewing Far Eastern Golgotha, it appears as if Russia has clicked onto something regarding their often-neglected Eastern provinces. There is a big market right there thanks to the natural resources and proximity to Asian countries, so plans for cities and infrastructure to be built there have been planned. Whether this is enough to quench the thirst of those who live in the east remains to be seen.

★★★ 1/2

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