Meeting Gorbachev

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United Kingdom | 2018 | 91 minutes | Werner Herzog, André Singer

To add perspective to his documentary on the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Werner Herzog found the best possible commentator: the man who oversaw it. His conversations with Mikhail Gorbachev, now 88, prove genial, insightful, and utterly absorbing.

"Werner Herzog 'has finally met his match.'"—IndieWire

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If anyone ever makes a biopic about Mikhail Gorbachev, it'll be the role of a lifetime for Ed Asner. But until then we have Werner Herzog's heartfelt documentary about the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the life of the man who oversaw it. Thrice over six months the filmmaker interviewed the ex-President, now 88—his famous archipelago-shaped forehead birthmark still intact—who provides invaluable commentary on Herzog's gathered footage of some of the most momentous events of the late 20th century. Gorbachev was only the USSR's eighth leader ever when in 1985 he succeeded Konstantin Chernenko ("the last of the fossils," Herzog calls him), and soon his reform efforts made glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring") buzzwords of hope, meeting with Reagan to end the arms race and the Cold War. Eastern Bloc nations broke away, the Berlin Wall fell (have a tissue handy), and the final domino, on the day after Christmas 1991, was the end of the USSR itself—and thus of Gorbachev's own power. But even more emotionally impactful, for him and for us, are his reminiscences of his wife Raisa and her 1999 death. Herzog's inclusion of a brief shot of Vladimir Putin at her coffin, attempting to look like a feeling human, slyly nudges us to compare the moral stature of the two leaders.

Director Biography
British documentary filmmaker and anthropologist André Singer started working in television in the early 1970s as a researcher, then as a producer and director. He is President of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California, and Visiting Professor of Film at the University of Westminster. He has authored five books of nonfiction with his wife, writer Lynette Singer.

Werner Herzog was born in Munich. He grew up in a remote mountain village in Bavaria and studied history and German literature in Munich and Pittsburgh. He made his first film in 1961 at age 19; since then he has produced, written, and directed more than 60 features and documentaries, published more than a dozen books of prose, and directed as many operas.

  • Director: Werner Herzog, André Singer
  • Principal Cast: Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog, Miklos Nemeth, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III
  • Country: United Kingdom, USA, Germany
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 91 minutes
  • Producer: Lucki Stipetic, Svetlana Palmer
  • Screenplay: Werner Herzog
  • Cinematographers: Richard Blanshard, Yuri Barak
  • Editors: Michael Ellis
  • Music: Nicholas Singer
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: Werner Herzog: Into the Inferno (Doc., 2016); Lo & Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (Doc., 2016); Queen of the Desert (2015); Into the Abyss (Doc., 2011); Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D (Doc., 2010); Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009); Encounters at the End of the World (Doc., 2007); Rescue Dawn (2006); The Wild Blue Yonder (Doc., 2005); Grizzly Man (Doc., 2005); My Best Friend (Doc., 1999); Little Dieter Needs to Fly (Doc., 1997); Fitzcarraldo (1982); Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979); Stroszek (1977); Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) | André Singer: Where the Wind Blew (2016); Night Will Fall (2014)
  • Language: Russian, German, English
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: 1091 Media
  • International Sales: Dogwoof