The former oil tycoon now lives in exile in Britain and has become one of Putin’s most prominent critics.
“Today Russia is not just an authoritarian state, it is a state that has been taken over by the mafia,” Khodorkovsky told a news conference on Saturday ahead of the screening of Citizen K in Venice, the film festival’s biggest documentary so far.
The film was described by one critic as a “scalding portrait” of the country under Vladimir Putin. Gibney, known for his meticulous non-fiction films including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side, turns a journalistic eye on the complex and contradictory figure of Khodorkovsky for his latest film to examine “how power works in Russia”.
The film is a portrait of the shadow dance of wealth and influence in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, tracing Putin’s two-decade grip on power.
It follows the story of Khodorkovsky, once one of the country’s richest men, who was jailed in 2003 and spent a decade in a Siberian prison for tax evasion after clashing with Putin.
It has had an enthusiastic reception, with David Rooney of Hollywood Reporter calling it a “lucidly accessible account of post-Soviet Russia’s lurching transition out of communism into a free-market economy that became a Wild West of gangster capitalism” and a “scalding portrait of Putin’s Russia”.
The U.S. director described his film as a “cautionary tale” for other democracies, adding that “Americans are somehow haunted by Russia” in the wake of the 2016 elections.