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Directed by Victoria Lewis This documentary examines a few of the controversies while offering dramatic and rather lurid recreations of the events surrounding the mystery of the death of Tsar Nicholas II & his Royal clan during the Bolshevik uprising in July 1918.
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Director Victoria Lewis' compelling and unexpectedly moving documentary, "Mystery of the Last Tsar, unfolds like a classic detective story as it sorts through the facts, both official and actual, to discover what happened and why. The film is given added depth by the use of documents, among them actual eyewitness accounts, that until recently were kept buried by the KGB. Lewis blends footage of Nicholas and his family, historically accurate re-enactments, and a lively mix of experts, including a former KGB insider, to consider evidence. And of course, Anna Anderson's claim to being the Tsar's youngest daughter, Anastasia, is duly considered. The documentary offers some new facts that you haven't seen before, settling, for example, the question of Lenin's complicity in the assassination once and for all. But more, it goes beyond the iconography of martyrdom or politics to humanize the victims. "Mystery of the Last Tsar" pulls off a neat trick. It takes a well-known story, done to death by Hollywood, and makes it intriguing in a whole new way. ("Movie Magazine" review by Andrea Chase. 04/02/97)
The discovery of the mass grave of the assassinated royal family of Russia in 1993 brought out a few public-television explanations, including a DNA-oriented special on NOVA. The makers of this film had already been at work on the subject for about three years at the time of the discovery, and continued using science, handshakes, and gallons of vodka to hammer away at the truth of the executions. There is an incisive approach to the material, the sites in modern Russia, and the pondering of the skulls, and a legitimate sifting through the murk that led to the death, the denomination, and the canonization of Russia's royal family. (San Francisco Bay Guardian by Crouse. 04/02/97)
"The Mystery of the Last Tsar" is a thorough documentary piecing together the imperial family's demise through the examination of the rumors, legends, newly opened Soviet archives and scientific research. The film is full of archival footage of Nicholas and his family enjoying their privileges. It also covers the uprising of the masses against 300 years of repressive imperial rule in 1917. There are interesting side trips, including a segment on Gregory Rasputin and his eerie hold on the Tsarina Alexandra and her hemophiliac son, Alexei, as well as the story of Anna Anderson, a woman who claimed she was Anastasia, the imperial daughter whose body was supposedly never accounted for. Most fascinating are the speculations of forensic and DNA experts, the latter having concluded that the battered skeletons in the shallow grave were indeed the tsar and his family. (San Francisco Examiner, by Barbara Shulgasser. 04/04/97)
This satisfying documentary about the events surrounding the death and mysterious disappearance of the Russian royal family in July 1918 reveals new evidence and makes history feel more immediate. -- San Francisco Chronicle, by Mick LaSalle, 04/05/99From the Contributor:
"Mystery of the Last Tsar" began in 1991 when Victoria Lewis of Cymru Films traveled to the remote Siberian town of Ekaterinburg where the skeletal remains of the last Tsar of Russia were believed to have been found in 1979. Lewis had previously viewed a tape, which had been smuggled out of Germany during the Soviet era, showing the excavated bones of Nicholas ll. and his family. "As soon as I saw the tape," said Lewis, " knew that I wanted to do this project." The video showed the ex-KGB officer who had risked his life to locate the bones. "He looked directly into the camera and asked that someone tell this story.' A year of historic research only furthered her resolve to document the unraveling of a 75-year-old mystery. In the years since then, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed a flood of new evidence indicating that the bones are the remains of the Romanovs. This investigative documentary which is produced by Frank Simeone, includes interviews with DNA and forensic experts as well as rare archival footage of the last tsar and his family. Archivists, with access to the diaries of Yakov Yurovsky, who led the execution squad, also help to decipher the mysterious disappearance of the last imperial family. ( BAVC "Profile" by Karen Weiner)
CAST LIST: Noted actors include Robery K. Massie ("Nicholas & Alexandra"), Edvard Radzinsky ("The Last Tsar") and Peter Kurth ("Anastasia")
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