A documentary always needs a skillful hand and eye to bring it together, otherwise the subject can easily get lost in the layout and presentation of the film. However, the true magic behind a documentary is often luck. No matter how much planning and careful crafting go into the film, there is always a degree of fortuity involved -- that your subjects will be cogent and engaging, or that the story unfolds in a cinematic way. This luck is what made The Ghosts of Cite Soliel so insanely gripping, and why this new documentary by Eric Bergkraut, Letter to Anna -- The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death, is worth your time.
The benefit of making documentaries about current or recent media figures who have passed away is that there is a fountain of information to choose from -- video clips, interviews, memoirs, family members, friends. They allow for a deeper and more personal look at the subject, and free the filmmaker from having to make educated guesses based on old sources skewed by translation, agenda, and lost bits of information. But rarely, if ever, do we see a documentary about someone who has passed away where their interviews speak directly to the theme of the film. In the case of Letter to Anna, Bergkraut is fortunate enough to have hours of interviews with slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya from his previous documentary, Coca: The Dove from Chechnya. These conversations not only infuse the film with a definite sense of who she was, but also allow us to learn about Anna's passions and personality directly from the source.