Portrait of the anarchist Nestor Makhno who initiated the first self-managed libertarian communes in Ukraine, the free soviets.
Nestor Makhno defends the poor, culture and freedom in 1917, when he expropriates the aristocrats and the land becomes social property. Farmers being able to own only the surface that they can cultivate alone without employees. This libertarian insurrection in the Cossack lands is one of the most exemplary realisations of the anarchist communist ideal, carried out by the population, on their land.
At the same time, he with his army the Makhnovshchina fought victoriously against the Whites. But in 1921 his ally turns against him, the Red Army under Trotsky’s orders destroys the Makhnovshchina and forces Makhno to exile. His life will end in Paris. In this portrait, Hélène Chatelain finds and resumes Makhno’s writings from his youthful diaries. In 1993, she goes to Gulyai-Polye and makes them read to the current inhabitants. Her investigation in Ukraine reveals what memories preserve of him, the batko (“the little father”). The iconography, numerous archive documents and testimonies show this legendary insurrectionary figure but also what Soviet propaganda wanted to make of him: a retarded peasant, bloodthirsty madman and anti-Semite. With the evidence gathered, Hélène Chatelain dismantles the slanderous accusations that the communist leaders spread, for example on Makhno’s alleged anti-Semitism, whereas he fought against it from his first actions.
Commentary According to Isabelle Marinone, Senior Lecturer in Film History at the University of Burgundy: “Hélène Chatelain’s 1995 poetic documentary Nestor Makhno, peasant from Ukraine constitutes a unique visual testimony exhuming the history of this emblematic figure of anarchism. The anarchist experience in Ukraine was for generations discredited and buried under a mythical representation that this film allows us to reconsider.” (wikipedia)