Tuesday, October 21, 2014

French Oil Exec Christophe de Margerie Killed After Private Jet Is Struck By Drunk Russian Driver's Plow

French Total Exec Christophe "Big Moustache" de Margerie
It was only back on October 3rd that a Hollywood Reporter article reported about an indignant member of the Russian parliament who made the bold proposal to ban all foreign films that "demonize Russia and Russians".

Well-known Russian director Yuri Kara then publicly suggested using a ban on American films as leverage to pressure President Obama to lift sanctions levied against Russia for having invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in violation of international law.

Just before 12am Monday (Moscow time) French oil executive Christophe de Margerie, the highly-regarded head of France's second largest company, Total, was killed on the runway of Vnukovo International Airport south-west of Moscow along with three members of the crew when a Russian airport plow driver who was drunk at the time, veered into the path of de Margerie's private Falcon-50 jet.

The colorful and outspoken de Margerie, affectionately known within the French company he headed as "Big Moustache" for his distinctive mustache (pictured above)  had just met with Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev to discuss French investment in Russia; including a joint French-Russian venture to extract oil from Siberia; de Margerie's company Total is one of the top ten oil producers in the world.

Now to a degree, I can understand Russian concerns about the way Russian people are portrayed in Hollywood films. As the Hollywood Reporter article notes, there have been a number of recent films featuring Russian villains including 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', 'A Good Day to Die Hard' and 'The Avengers'. But remember, those are just fictional characters.

The outraged Russians may have forgotten that Hollywood also has had many quality films featuring interesting Russian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian characters too. 'Enemy At the Gates', 'Dr. Zhivago', 'The Hunt for Red October', 'Reds', 'Gorky Park', 'Moscow On the Hudson' and 'The Russia House' are just a few of the Hollywood films to have featured an array of well-written, intelligent and multidimensional Russian characters of substance, complexity and depth. 

So that "outrage" over a handful of American popcorn movies featuring Russian villains struck me as a bit contrived; and opportunistic too given the beating Russia's public image has taken since President Vladimir Putin ordered Crimea annexed and put Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory.

And let's be frank, it's not like Russia has to wag it's finger at Hollywood's fictional depictions of Russian villains.

Russia, like many other nations including America, has it's own share of real-life villains. It was only this summer that a Malaysian Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine with Russian technology; including a Russian-built missile launcher that was quickly spirited back into Russian territory.

How about Josef Stalin? Historians and scholars agree that the former Soviet leader was estimated to have killed at least 20 million of his OWN people (some say 60 million) - far more than even Hitler's crazy-ass killed.

Then there's Andrei Chikatilo, the most prolific (known) Russian serial killer in Russian history, who plead guilty to 56 cases of rape, mutilation and murder of women and children after finally being caught. The story was told in the excellent HBO film 'Citizen X'.

Russia's problems with neo-Nazis and violent right wing nationalist hate groups are well-documented as well; just as they are here in the US and other European nations.

It's not my purpose to malign Russia, as I wrote about in this blog back in 2011, I visited the Soviet Union back in 1987 and got to personally experience the rich culture and history of the beautiful city of Leningrad / St. Petersburg; and the generosity and kindness of it's people. I hope to return there some day when the environment is less openly hostile to foreigners and people of color.

But the idea that the public image of Russians is being distorted by fictional villains in Hollywood films, is questionable at best.

The Russian government's actions in Crimea, their tacit support of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, the trampling of human rights, censorship of journalists and outlawing of opposition political parties within their own borders and their complicity in the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine make it more than clear that Russians themselves are responsible for distorting their own image around the globe.

It wasn't a fictional villain from a Hollywood movie that caused the death of Christophe de Margerie.

It was a drunk Russian plow driver at a mismanaged Russian airport who collided with a private jet on the runway; killing a respected international businessman who actually believed in the importance of doing business with Russia - even in the midst of international sanctions.

It's not Hollywood fiction that's demonizing Russians; that's just the reality in Russia today.

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