The Red Soul

Directed by Jessica Gorter

90 minutes / Color/B&W
Russian / English subtitles
Release: 2018
Copyright: 2017

"The Red Empire is gone, but the 'Red Man' remains. He endures." —Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Prize for Literature, 2015)

Why do so many Russians still defend Joseph Stalin as a great leader and a hero? Is Stalin a hero who led the Soviet Union to victory, or should he be held responsible for the millions of victims who died during his reign?

film still

The Red Soul lays bare the Russian psyche of today and shows a world full of contradictions. In a country where hardly any family escaped the hunger, fear and violence resulting from Stalin’s reign of terror, no one has ever been convicted for the crimes committed under his regime. Even now, more than 50 years after Stalin’s death, Russians remain deeply divided over how to deal with the memories of this painful past.

In a mosaic of intimate portraits, ordinary Russians—both young and old—speak openly about their traumas, rooted in a violent history. Tales of pain alternate with tales of pride. Nostalgic stories of a state flourishing under the Communist ideal contrast with painful memories of hunger, violence and betrayal. Not infrequently, these conflicting views can be found in one and the same person. Gradually, this intriguing film exposes how the Soviet past lives on in current generations, and thus makes its mark on the future.

"Ambitiously intriguing, sensitive and expert; examines the palette of clashing colors along Russia’s political spectrum. A useful, intelligent primer [that] moves fluently between big cities and extremely remote rural areas." —Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter

"Highly recommended! In this brilliant and fascinating film, the award-winning documentary filmmaker Jessica Gorter explores nostalgia for Stalin and his era in modern-day Russia." —Andrew Jenks, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Recommended! Never points a finger of blame or judgement towards the Russian people, but simply shows their fascinating, worrisome struggle with their own recent history." —Kaj van Zoelen, Frameland

"A striking documentary that avoids moralizing and easy answers; THE RED SOUL counters traditional stereotypes about Russia and highlights the complexity of Russians' views not just of Stalin, but of Soviet history." Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University

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A film by Jessica Gorter

Select Accolades

  • World Premiere, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2017
  • One World Human Rights Film Festival 2018
  • Tempo Documentary Festival 2018
  • Docs Against Gravity Film Festival 2018
  • Crossing Europe Film Festival 2018


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