Playback – film

Playback, trailer

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This is the story of one of the most famous Russian filmmakers: Alexei German. He spent several years shooting of his last film Hard to be a god. It is a film about a man who tries to fight slavery and advocate freedom.
That makes his life difficult, but his art unique. It’s a film about his complex relationship with his team, which he rules with an iron hand. This is a film about freedom and power, about the authority and submission of men, about impossible dream to change the course of history. It is a film about the paradoxes of Russia.
At last, this is a film about the vision of the Swiss director and its relationship to this universe. In a certain way, he shares the fate of the main character of German’s film: the one of a casual observer on another planet: Russia

Artistic and technical credits

Directed by

Antoine Cattin


Antoine Cattin

Edited by

Antoine Cattin

Produced by

Les Films Hors-Champ (Suisse)


Elena Hill

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Co-produced by


Unité des films documentaires

Irène Challand / Gaspard Lamunière

With the support of

Fonds REGIO Films avec la Loterie romande

Fondation Vaudoise pour le cinéma

Fondation culturelle Suissimage

Succès Passage Antenne

Succès Cinéma (Office Fédérale de la Culture)


Adrien Kessler


David Klaus


VPS Lausanne


68 minutes

Original language

Russian, French


Français, English

Distribution world sales

Les Films Hors-Champ

Elena HILL

CH-1373 Chavornay

Awards and nominations

Special Mention of Jury 2013, International Competition

BAFICI, 2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Prize of the Critics at the ‘Message to Man’

International Film Festival 2012, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pavel Kogan Prize at the « Message to Man »

International Film Festival 2012, St. Petersburg, Russia

Press Extracts

A journey deep into German’s world, or a film-world that swallows up its own creator, “Dur d’être dieu”, points out what is true of any creative act. Through one of the most rigorous creators of the visual image, the film opens the way to something that goes beyond cinema itself: the surprising fragility of life.

Carlo Chatrian, Artistic Director of the Berlin International Film Festival.

(Visions du Réel 2012, International Competition)

Plongée dans l’univers de Guerman ou immersion dans un film-monde qui engloutit son propre créateur, Dur d’être dieu, pointe ce qui est propre à tout acte de création. Par l’intermédiaire de l’un des plus rigoureux créateurs d’images, le film s’ouvre à quelque chose qui dépasse le domaine du cinéma et qui tient à la surprenante fragilité de la vie.

Carlo Chatrian, Directeur artistique du Berlin International Film Festival.

(Visions du Réel 2012, Compétition Internationale)

This suggestive glimpse into a specific environment with its own rules, from which the filmmakers were able to capture the essence of truth during the creative process, is a portrait not only of a celebrated and uncompromising artist, but of his country as well.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012, International Competition Documentaries

Cet aperçu suggestif d’un monde particulier avec ses propres règles, duquel les cinéastes ont pu capturer l’essence de la vérité pendant le processus créatif, est un portrait non seulement d’un artiste célèbre et intransigeant mais aussi de son pays.

Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2012, Compétition Internationale Documentaires

Prior to his death (you might say decades before, since he died on February 21st this year, but worked periodically on this project since the late Sixties), the great Russian director Alexei German was working in the adaptation of How Hard It Is to Be God, a novel by brothers Arkadi and Boris Strugatski –a science fiction story about scientists studying the behavior of a wild planet’s inhabitants. In their own way, Cattin and Kostomarov filmed the same story: the “wild planet” is actually the film set of How Hard It Is to Be God, and the God in question is, naturally, German, with his emotional peaks, impossible orders, and a level of abuse towards his film crew that has never been so crudely documented and makes Herzog look like a Backyardigan when put next this autocrat from Leningrad. Apart from its echoes and metaphors (there are plenty of both), Playback is a unique opportunity to peek at a creative process in its most wild state of splendor.

Marcelo Panozzo, Artistic Director BAFICI 2013, International Competition


Switzerland, 1er Kino Festival de Russie et d’ailleurs, Geneva, 2013

Lituania, 9° Vilnius Documentary Film Festival, 2013

Argentina, 15° BAFICI-Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente, Official Selection International Competition, Buenos Aires, 2013

Sweden, 36° Goteborg International Film Festival, 2013, Goteborg

Russia, 22° ‘Message to Man’ International Film Festival, Official selection International Competition, 2012, St. Petersbourg

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Russia, Perm Film Festival, ‘Flahertiana’, Official Selection International Competition, 2012

Switzerland, 65° Festival International de Film Locarno, 2012

Czech Republic, 47° International Film Festival Karlovy Vary, Official Selection International Competition, 2012, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Switzerland, « Visions du Réel » Internacional film festival, Official Selection International Competition, 2012, Nyon

Further reading / À lire aussi