The Notorious Mr. Bout: Lord of War, Merchant of Death, Amateur Filmmaker

January 29, 2014 | Marina Galperina

“This is my first visit to America. On the drive to jail, I saw the Brooklyn Bridge. I recognize it from the movies.”

That’s the world’s most famous arms dealer Viktor Bout, in the above clip of the The Notorious Mr. Bout. But Lord of War? Nicholas Cage? No, Bout  — currently serving time somewhere in Illinois — never lived in Brighton Beach as a snazzy, stereotypical Ukrainian-American gangster, reveling in running guns and, later, obsessed with money and being an arms smuggler extraordinaire. He was a business entrepreneur, an aviation magnate and really into tourism. The dangers and legal/ethical complications of how he got to be such a tourist… Well… He still denies he had ties to the Taliban, though he did deal arms in Afghanistan and made “shipments” from Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine to Liberia and Angola.

Most interestingly, Bout was also an amateur filmmaker. Much of the film, which recently played at the Sundance Film Festival, is told through Bout’s video footage.

Until three days prior to his 2008 arrest on charges of conspiring to kill Americans, Bout kept the camera running, documenting a life spent in the gray areas of international law.

With unprecedented access to Bout’s home movies and DEA surveillance material   during the sting operation to bring him down, filmmakers Gerber (Full Battle Rattle) and Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer) paint an evocative portrait of a life much mythologized but little understood.