Fifteen years from its inception, YouTube retains the power to shock and disorient — particularly when wielded by children who have lived their whole lives in its era. A found-footage documentary composed entirely of social media videos by teenagers weathering hostile education and a climate of terror in contemporary Russia, Manifesto contains one vignette after another to make viewers wince with discomfort and even outright horror. One’s first impulse might be to ask whether any documentary should show such material at all — yet of course, it has been freely available for public viewing all along. As such, Manifesto invites uneasy consideration of the differing responsibilities of creating, consuming and externally curating candid video, and provides no guidance.
– – There’s no narration to bind or editorialize these disparate but symphonically despairing mini-narratives of physical abuse and psychological oppression, and Manifesto counts on viewers’ knowledge of recent Russian politics and social norms to determine which videos present uncompromised reality, which may be documenting pranks or performance, and which have been alarmingly coerced.
Guy Lodge, Variety
Manifesto is a shocking documentary. It portrays a deep societal malaise through the stories of the ones that suffer the most in the situation. It is like sending children to operate as war correspondents. Any 5 second clip of school life from the film would cause a national scandal were it to take place in the Finnish school system.
Juhana Pettersson (translated by Vilma-Lotta Mustonen)
The film is also available online throughout the festival!
Content warning: sexual abuse, homicide