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The Dmitriev Affair: Film Screening and Q&A with Director Jessica Gorter

May 3 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

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Darren Star Screening Room, 1422 Melnitz Hall
235 Charles E Young Drive E
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The Luskin Center for History and Policy, in collaboration with the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages and Cultures (SEEELC), invites you to a screening of Jessica Gorter’s documentary film “The Dmitriev Affair,” which will be followed by a Q&A session with the director (appearing remotely), moderated by Professor Daniel Treisman (UCLA Political Science). View the trailer here.


Deep inside the Russian forests, against the wishes of the authorities, 60-year-old Yuri Dmitriev searches for mass graves from the era of Stalin’s terror against his own people – until one day he is arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a penal colony. Following Yuri closely, the film paints a shocking picture of the way the Russian state rewrites history and treats its citizens.

Yuri Dmitriev exhumes what the Russian rulers would rather forget. After years of searching the pine forests of Karelia in northwestern Russia, he discovers a mass grave containing thousands of people who were secretly executed during Stalin’s “Great Terror” of 1937.

It is not the Russian government but Yuri Dmitriev who tracks down their identities in the archives and organizes commemorations for their next of kin. Thanks to his efforts, they finally find out what happened to their lost relatives. Having himself been left at a maternity clinic as a baby, he is a man on a mission: ‘Every human being has the right to know where they came from and where their family lies buried.’

While abroad there is increasing recognition for this “archaeologist of terror”, in Russia Dmitriev is discredited as someone collaborating with the West. Then he is arrested, on basis of a fabricated charge. Tragically accurate Dmitriev predicts his own future and that of his country.

Yuri Dmitriev has received several awards for his work, including the Sakharov Freedom Award and the Polish Gold Cross of Merit. Dmitriev was head of the Karelian branch of the now dissolved human rights organization Memorial, who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.

About the Director:

Jessica Gorter is a Dutch documentary filmmaker. She studied directing and editing at the Dutch Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam. As a teenager she lived for several years in the United States and after completing her studies, she worked and traveled in Russia for a longer period of time. Her experience of these different worlds, fueled by her passion for photography, forms an important basis for her further work. Her award-winning films are screened worldwide at film festivals and universities, theatrically released and broadcasted internationally.

Gorter made her breakthrough with 900 Days (2011) about the myth and reality of the Leningrad blockade. The film won the IDFA Award for Best Dutch Documentary the Prix Interreligieux at Visions du Réel in Nyon and the special jury prize at the ArtDocFest in Moscow. The film was also nominated for a Golden Calf at the Netherlands Film Festival and for the Prix Italia.

Earlier in her career she made a.o. the short poetic documentary Ferryman across the Volga (1997, Prix de RTBF) and Piter (IFFR, 2004): a captivating look into the lives of seven residents of Saint Petersburg at a turning point in history. In her third feature-length documentary The Red Soul (2017), the director investigated why Stalin is still seen as a hero by so many Russians. The film premiered at IDFA, was screened at many international festivals and received widespread critical acclaim.

About the Moderator:

Daniel Treisman is a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

A graduate of Oxford University (B.A. Hons.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.), he has published six books and many articles in leading political science and economics journals including The American Political Science Review and The American Economic Review, as well as in public affairs journals such as  Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy.

His research focuses on Russian politics and economics as well as comparative political economy, including in particular the analysis of democratization, the politics of authoritarian states, political decentralization, and corruption.


Parking at UCLA requires a valid permit at all times. Campus parking is available 24-hours a day at varying prices. Parking Structure 3 (P3) is closest to the event venue and offers hourly Pay-By-Space parking. Visit UCLA Visitor Parking for information about where to park and parking rates.

Related document: The Dmitriev Affair poster

Co-Organized with: The Luskin Center for History and Policy


May 3
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm