Hot Docs 2023 Review: The Rise of Wagner

by Andrew Parker

Director Benoît Bringer investigates a shadowy band of Russian mercenaries responsible for widespread atrocities in the eye opening The Rise of Wagner, a film that shoulders the burden of being increasingly timely rather well.

If you ask anyone within the circle of Russian president Vladimir Putin, The Wagner Group officially doesn’t exist, but they’ve had their fingerprints all over various world conflicts since around 2014, when they first surfaced in Eastern Ukraine and they are often cited as a major player today. From there, this well funded band of private soldiers – who have a penchant for airing some of their dirtiest deeds on the internet – would show up to protect Russian interests in places like Syria (where video was captured of Russian mercenaries beating and torturing a man) and Central African Republic (where a group of journalists sent to investigate Wagner would be murdered in 2018). The Wagner Group is quite accomplished, despite never being publicly acknowledged, with ties that run to the highest levels of the Russian government and soldiers that have better training than most members of the country’s military.

The Rise of Wagner feels dangerous in all the right ways, which means it gets as close to the awful truth as it possibly can without someone getting hurt. Bringer talks to all the right people: a former Wagner member who was in Syria, investigative journalists, and various legal professionals who want the group brought up on human rights abuses and war crimes charges. Bringer isn’t afraid to name names in The Rise of Wagner, no matter how vengeful or litigious they might be, proving that this secret group might be brought into the light sooner rather than later.

Friday, May 5, 2023 – 2:45 pm – Scotiabank Theatre 7

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