A revealing documentary about Kadyrov’s Chechnya, or a propaganda film in favour of Putin’s Russia? The latter, says our reviewer.

Sigurd Lydersen
A freelance writer on Russian politics in Norway.
Published date: May 12, 2016

2015_05_26_cc_ap145574170-d50b4The documentary The Family. A film about Ramzan Kadyrov on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was launched in May 2015 in several different languages – including an English edition. Every version is available on Youtube. The film is produced by Mikhail Khodorkovskij’s foundation Otkrytaja Rossija – An Open Russia. Khodorkovskij was the owner of the oil company Yukos and an oligarch when he was arrested for financial crimes in 2003. He and his supporters claim that the reason for the arrest was the financial backing he had provided to the Putin opposition. Yukon was expropriated by the State, and Khodorkovskij sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was pardoned in connection with the 2013 Sochi Olympics, on Putin’s condition that he would no longer be involved in politics. Later, Khodorkovskij applied for political asylum in Switzerland where he still lives. In 2014, he founded the organisation An Open Russia.

Hell’s forecourt. Khodorkovskij’s 26 minute-documentary is professional, featuring both voice-overs and special effects. Scenes taken from the ground in Chechnya has a red filter, thus emphasising the portrayal of Ramazan Kadyrovs’ Chechnya as a sort of hell’s forecourt. The soundscape is uncomfortable and gloomy akin to a horror film. We are introduced to a Chechen dictator who rules the country with an iron fist, and a population in fear of his arbitrary power abuse. Representatives from the Russian human rights organisation The Committee against Torture tells about attacks on their offices and the torture they themselves have suffered at the hands of Kadyrov. We are told about the Kadyrov family fund, into which all Chechens must contribute 10 percent of their salaries, which funds the Kadyrov-family’s luxuriously extravagant lifestyle. Footballing legend Diego Maradona was paid millions worth of kroner to play football with Kadyrov, whilst world class artists are flown in for private functions, entire Grozny city blocks are painted orange in homage to the city’s football team coach Ruud Gullit, and high rise buildings are constructed in the centre of Grozny which no one can afford to …

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