SynopsisCivil society and the law system in Russia are under severe pressure from the state. We document the struggle of human rights lawyers who fight for justice in an increasingly suffocating dictatorship.
After Russia started a fully-fledged war against Ukraine, the state’s repressive machine against its own civil society started spinning with even greater velocity and the law system, which barely functioned before, eventually turned into a mechanism of abuse and brutality. Human rights lawyers have become the last frontier between state violence and society. Our main protagonist Mikhail Benyash has been representing activists, bloggers, and protesters for many years, now he is also helping those who refuse to serve in the war. He was the victim of reprisals long before the war started, and in October 2022 was registered as a “foreign agent” – meaning he could lose his licence and face imprisonment. Film-maker Masha Novikova followed Benyash and a whole network of human rights lawyers for more than three years. The film documents their everyday struggle for justice in the increasingly hopeless conditions of a suffocating dictatorship. Very often they pay a high personal price to support their clients, putting themselves and their families in danger. Many have already had to leave the country, while others have remained, like Mikhail who believes that every voice counts and that every little action against the dictatorship matters.