Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Cannes 2007: The spy who came in from the cold

The spy arrived quietly as the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival was ready to draw the curtain down and lock up its projectors till next May. Director, Andrei Nekrasov’s “Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case”, a powerful documentary on the murder of a former Russian spy in London last November, was screened on May 26 in what was an unscheduled addition to the Festival’s official sections.

Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive polonium. He was given tea laced with this deadly venom, and the former spy died a very painful death.

The day British law officials formally charged a key suspect in the murder case, Andrei Lugovoy, Cannes announced the inclusion of this documentary.

Litvinenko died three weeks after he was poisoned in London, where he had been living in exile since escaping from Russia. He had accused the state security services of bombing apartment blocks in Moscow. These led to the Chechnya crisis.

And, when the former spy accused – as he lay dying in hospital -- Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his assassination, it created a diplomatic rift between Britain and Russia. Their relationship is yet to improve.

Nekrasov said he wanted the people to see the way Litvinenko died as a martyr for his strong beliefs. “I want people to say enough is enough”.

The director told the Press at Cannes that in his darker moments he was afraid he would also be killed.

I hope that Cannes’ bold move to screen this bolder documentary would not only let the world know what political systems are capable of, but also help keep men like Nekrasov safe so that they can continue telling the truth to a world that is dangerously close to caring less and less about human life.

(Webposted May 27 2007)