At the core of Magnus Gertten’s new feature film – Only the Devil Lives Without Hope – lies the life story of a sister who never gave up fighting for her brother’s release from Uzbekistan’s infamous Jaslyk prison. But this personal story – covering almost two decades – tells the story of Uzbekistan’s political history since the fall of the USSR, and a universal tale of love, resilience, and struggle against the destructive tentacles of a faceless totalitarian regime.
Not a lot of news comes out of Uzbekistan. Rich in culture, the most highly populous country in Central Asia used to be at the heart of the ancient Silk Road, linking China with the Middle East and Rome. Until 1991, the country was part, and under the firm control, of the Soviet Union. After the USSR fell apart, it turned into a heavily Russian influenced dictatorship, ruled by former communist party boss Islam Karimov, who launched a far-reaching crackdown on all religions after Islamist militants carried out bombings in the capital of Tashkent. Dilya was a teenager at the time, and those events changed her life forever.
Fighting for justice
Following the bombings, Dilya’s brother, Iskandar was arrested, and after a Soviet-style trial – in truth just a formality of which the outcome had already been determined – he was sentenced to death, a decision later commuted to life in prison. He was then taken to Jaslyk in the North of the country, a place where no visitors were allowed and …
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