Brit filmmaker Stuart Urban (Preaching To The Perverted) delivers an intriguing if not entirely satisfying documentary in Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead. The focal point is his father, Garri, a charismatic, larger-than-life pensioner whose war-time experiences - escaping both the Nazis and Soviets - play like a Boy's Own adventure crossed with Schindler's List. The style is a little ramshackle, like a well-produced home movie, but the twist-filled story is arresting.
Stuart follows Garri during a trip to Ukraine in 1992 as he revisits the locations of his life-and-death exploits, while also seeking the file Soviet Secret Service, the KGB, still hold on him. When he does finally secure the documents, a further twist is delivered with the suggestion he doesn't want his family to discover everything about his past. Perhaps - just perhaps - Garri wasn't the innocent survivor he styled himself as.
"TOUCHING, HANDY-CAM REMINISCENCES"
Stuart's further investigations after his father's death are inconclusive. A better journalist might have uncovered the truth as to whether Garri's evasion of the authorities was because of daring, luck or a more sinister deal - collaborating in order to secure his freedom. But credit to the director for at least flirting with the possibility that his hero had a darker side. Through a mixture of WW2 newsreel and touching, handy-cam reminiscences, a picture emerges of a fascinating figure for whom charm and bluster can't quite disguise a damaged soul.
Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead is out in the UK on 2nd May 2008.