12 is a 2007 Russian crime film directed by and starring Nikita Mikhailkov (Никита Михайлков). The film is an adaptation of Reginald Rose’s famous play Twelve Angry Men. Mikhailkov received the Special Lion award at the 64th annual Venice International Film Festival for his work on this film. The film features both Russian and Chechen dialogue.
A group of jurors is hearing the case of an 18-year-old Chechen boy accused of murdering his foster father, a Russian Army officer and veteran of the war in Chechnya. The case seems straightforward, and the boy’s guilt is practically assumed as the jurors meet in the gymnasium of a local school. However, when the votes are tallied, there is one dissenting juror, to the surprise and chagrin of the others. We learn the life story of the dissenting juror (played by Sergey Makovetskiy/Сергей Маковетский): he was saved from severe alcoholism by a kind stranger. On the second vote, another juror, played by Valentin Gaft (Валентин Гафт), also votes not guilty, and we learn his personal history as a Holocaust survivor. The debate intensifies, and the juror played by Sergey Garmash (Сергей Гармаш) goes on a nationalist rant against the Chechens in an attempt to steer the jury’s opinion. He arranges a re-creation of the gruesome and messy murder scene. However, the juror played by Sergey Gazarov (Сергей Газаров) argues that people of the Caucasus are masters of melee weapons and therefore it is unlikely that the Chechen boy would have left such a messy scene. As the debate gets more heated, at the center is the aloof and silent head juror, played by Mikhailkov himself. The film continues to revolve around flashbacks and personal histories of the jurors, as well as that of the Chechen boy. One by one, the jurors all change their votes to not guilty. Mikhailkov’s character, it is revealed, believed in the boy’s innocence from the beginning but kept silent until the final vote.
The film receieved mixed reviews at home in Russia and abroad. President Vladimir Putin watched the film alongside Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (Рамзан Кадыров) in Putin’s private residence. The film, Putin said, “brought a tear to the eye.” However, opposition journalists including Zoya Svetova (Зоя Светова) have labeled the film pro-Putin and problematically nationalistic, not least because Mikhailkov’s character, the voice of reason in the film, is a Russian secret service officer.
Director: Nikita Mikhailkov (Никита Михайлков)
Stars: Sergey Makovetskiy (Сергей Маковетский), Valentin Gaft (Валентин Гафт), Sergey Garmash (Сергей Гармаш), Sergey Gazarov (Сергей Газаров), Nikita Mikhailkov (Никита Михайлков)
Production company: TriTe (ТриТэ)
Box office take: $7.5 million