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900 Days
Directed by Jessica Gorter
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Is it better to acknowledge an unpalatable truth or to embrace the comfort of myth? Jessica Gorter's 900 DAYS contrasts the devastating and unforgettable stories recounted by survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, the infamous German blockade, which caused the deaths of more than 1 million people during World War II, with the triumphant memorials fabricated by the Russian state.

The blockade, one of the most incredible, defining events of World War II, remains largely unremembered outside of Russia. In September 1941, the 3 million inhabitants of the city now known as St. Petersburg were trapped without food or drinking water. For 900 days of subzero temperatures, people had to eat glue, leather soles, cats, and perhaps even their fellow human beings. When the city finally opened up again, nearly a million had died.

Immediately after the war, investigations of the blockade were forbidden. The Soviet propaganda machine transformed the survivors into a symbol of national heroism, silencing any questions about Stalin's war policy and its toll on the lives of ordinary Russians.

In 900 DAYS, Gorter employs newly declassified material from the Secret Service archives that reveals, in coldly impersonal statistics, the extent of cannibalism in the blockaded city and the population's fury with their own authorities. Footage of present-day Russian memorials to the survivors of the siege illustrate the persistence of the official, heroic account of the event even in light of this new information.

Elsewhere in the film, survivors speak openly, many for the first time in their lives, about their experiences and the post-war censorship. Their painful memories overshadow the public myth in which some of them had previously participated. All their lives they have been told they were heroes who guided the country toward victory, but they are increasingly aware that true recognition of their traumatic experience and the ruinous policies that allowed it to continue is still, even after half a century, far away.

"It's absolutely brilliantly done. Beautifully paced and photographed; brilliantly chosen interviews; devastatingly understated." —Anna Reid, author of Leningrad: Tragedy of a City Under Siege, 1941-1944

"Superb! A throat-gripping look at history and its continuing ramifications. Beautifully integrates past and present...900 DAYS shows that even grasping the horrors on an individual level is ultimately a task few are capable of comprehending." Variety

"Not for the faint of heart." Educational Media Reviews Online

"Should be required viewing for anyone interested in the culture and history of Petersburg-Leningrad as well as the manipulations of the image and reality of World War II in contemporary Russian society." Slavic Review

Best Dutch Documentary, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2011
Interreligious Prize and Special Mention for Grand Prize, Visions du Reel 2012
Special Mention, Magic Hour Award, Plante Doc 2012
Association for the Study of Nationalities World Convention 2012

77 minutes / Color
English; Russian / English subtitles
Release: 2012
Copyright: 2011

For individual consumers (home video)

This DVD is sold for private, home use only.

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For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Eastern Europe, Historiography, History (World), Human Rights, Russia, World War II

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