Friday , July 19 2024
Christo Grozev in 'Antidote'
Christo Grozev in 'Antidote' (courtesy of Tribeca FF)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘Antidote’


In the documentary competition at Tribeca Film Festival, the superb and urgent film Antidote, produced and directed by James Jones, made its World Premiere. This steely documentary reveals one of the most current topics in global affairs today. It focuses on the importance of brave and heroic journalists who publicize corruption. Specifically, Antidote spotlights Vladimir Putin’s nefarious influence to maintain power and undermine democracies.

With a cinema verite style, Antidote highlights the grave risks Russian journalists take to bring the truth of Putin’s terrorist regime to light. The documentary uncovers the attacks and obstacles the journalists of Bellingcat and other publications must confront. In effect they symbolically provide the cure to the Putin psychosis to control Russia by any means necessary. A key weapon in Putin’s war against the opposition includes poisoning his opponents. Poisons not only eliminate troublesome individuals who threaten his power, they also send send a message to challengers not to prevent his power grabs or thwart his goals to overpower Ukraine and undermine NATO.

Using assassins (5000 operating around the world as subcontractors according to Bellingcat), Putin acts with impunity. Remaining above the law, Putin shows disdain for NATO and the Geneva Convention, which bans chemical warfare. Also, because of Putin’s atrocities committed in his war on Ukraine, the Hague deemed him a war criminal, who commits crimes against humanity. Bellingcat publicizes Putin’s murderous acts and supports the Russian people to hold him accountable and restore Russia’s freedom from death and oppression.

The Title References Poison, Putin’s Weapon Against Dissidents

Jones (Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes), selected the title as a reference and counterpart to the Oscar-winning film Navalny. That film’s titular subject, beloved of the Russian people, heroically stood up to Putin. In order to send a message to others and punish Alexei Navalny, Putin sent assassins to poison him and destroy his influence. After Navalny recovered from two poisonings, which Bellingcat publicized, Putin arrested Navalny and ordered his death by poisoning in prison. Instrumental in the discovery of Putin’s assassin squad, which targets political opponents, Bellingcat continually receives information from whistleblowers. With their laptops at home, journalists accomplish their information gathering using advanced digital technology.

One whistleblower, featured in the opening of the film, developed variations of Putin’s favorite Novichok into many Novichoks. When this chemist realized that his creations to stop terrorists, instead, stopped Putin’s political rivals and dissidents, he resigned. Whistleblowing anonymously to the press, an act of betrayal to Putin, he left the country, although his family was not able to immediately go with him. Jones follows his meet-up on the border between Ukraine and Russia. a dangerous route to the West. When he reaches safety, the whistleblower provides crucial, insider information to expose members of Putin’s poisonous killing machine. He reveals the chemical compounds used in the Novichok variations to help create antidotes.

Journalists in 'Antidote' meet to share information they've gleaned about Putin's regime (Tribeca Film Festival)
Journalists in Antidote meet to share information they’ve gleaned about Putin’s regime (Tribeca Film Festival)

Christo Grozev, Investigative Journalist and his Contacts

With stark, dimly lit interior scenes, and intense close-ups, Jones focuses on Bulgarian journalist Christo Grozev, who writes for Bellingcat and The Insider. Because of his work exposing Putin’s poisonous killing machine and member assassins, Grozev receives information that Putin placed him on his kill list. Forced to leave Vienna, Austria, his family and father, Grozev wrangles with the hardships this causes. Though he communicates regularly with family on burner phones, they attempt to joke about the situation, proud of his courage.

Especially proud of his son, Grozev’s father expresses upset that Christo can’t return to Vienna safely. When his father doesn’t answer his phone, Christo discovers his father died suddenly. Police state the autopsy yields little about causes of death. Meanwhile, Putin’s poisonous weapons include nerve agents which simulate heart attack. Regardless of whether Putin’s assassins killed his father or he died from grief (not likely), Christo feels guilty. “If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, he’d be alive now.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza Pays the Price of Speaking out against Putin

Contrasted with Grozev, the film provides updated information about the trial and punishment of author, political activist, filmmaker and journalist, Vladimir Kara-Murza. Though Jones could only use video footage of the Russian opposition leader’s trial and imprisonment, he shadows Evgenia, Kara-Murza’s wife, who lives with their children in Virginia for safety. Charged with high treason and serving a 25-year sentence in the Siberian Gulag, Kara-Murza survived two poisonings. Still writing from jail, the Pulitzer committee awarded Kara-Murza the “Pulitzer Prize for commentary” in 2024. Including clips from his wife who comments on Kara-Murza’s failing condition, Jones highlights Putin’s ongoing revenge against those speaking out against his oppressive regime.

Putin’s cowardly tactics only spur on dissidents. After Putin murdered Alexei Navalny, his voice continues through Navalny’s widow Yulia, who bravely protests Putin. Likewise, Evgenia Kara-Murza has become a spokesperson to maintain public interest in Vladimir’s condition and his situation opposing Putin. As a prominent voice of the opposition, she spoke at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. During her speech she advocated for the reported 116,000 jailed in the Gulag who opposed Putin by exercising free speech. The number, greater than those jailed during the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, speaks to Putin’s mentoring Stalin’s leadership style.

Journalists Speak to Putin’s Growing Paranoia

The journalists covering Putin understand his growing paranoia. One declares him a psychotic who enjoys killing. Another comments that Russia no longer bothers to pretend that it’s a democratic state. Jones’ Antidote reveals that the brave journalists writing truth and shining a light on Putin’s darkness conquers hopelessness. The spotlight promotes the cure against Putin’s poisons whether toxic chemicals or lies. With hope and stalwart determination, Jones concludes with the Russian people marching and chanting an end to Putin’s dictatorship. Indeed, the sooner the better.

Jones’ Antidote inspires. Look for it on streaming platforms.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' ( 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.