Theater of Cruelty

The documentary filmmaker who had learned the lesson say

Revealing documentary about Kadyrov's Chechnya, or propaganda film in favor of Putin's Russia? Our reviewer thinks the latter.


The Family. A movie about Ramzan Kadyrov
Directed by: Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The documentary The Family. A movie about Ramzan Kadyrov about the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was launched in May 2015 in several languages ​​- including an English version. All versions are available on YouTube. The film is produced by Mikhail Khodorkovsky's foundation Open Russia – An open Russia. Khodorkovsky was the owner of the Yukos oil company and one of Russia's richest when he was arrested for financial crime in 2003. He and his supporters claim that the background was his financial support for Putin's opposition. The Yukos company was expropriated by the state, and Khodorkovsky was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He left grace at the 2013 Sochi Olympics, on condition that Putin should not get involved in politics any longer. Khodorkovsky later received political asylum in Switzerland, where he still lives. He founded the organization An Open Russia in 2014.

Courtyard of Hell. Khodorkovsky's 26-minute documentary is professionally executed, with voiceover and dramatic effects. Scenes from the ground in Chechnya have a red filter, thus supporting a depiction of Ramzan Kadyrov's Chechnya as a kind of court of hell. The soundscape is unpleasant and gloomy as in a horror movie. We are presented with a Chechen dictator with an iron grip on the country, and a population in fear of arbitrary abuse of power. Representatives of the Russian human rights organization Committee against Torture report both attacks on the offices and the torture they themselves have been subjected to by Kadyrov. We hear about the Kadyrov family's fund, which all Chechens reportedly have to pay ten percent of their salaries to, and which is for free use for Kadyrov's family and their lives in boundless luxury and expensive habits. Millions of kroner have gone to the legendary football player Diego Maradona for Kadyrov to play football with him, world artists are flown in to private celebrations, entire city quarters in Grozny are painted orange in honor of Ruud Gullit as coach of the city's football team, and skyscrapers are built in Grozny center that no one can afford to live or work in. We are told that every tenth male Chechen is part of Ramzan Kadyrov's well-equipped army, and that Kadyrov boasts of having sent 74 troops to eastern Ukraine.

Putin has every reason to be happy.

Frankenstein figure and enemy image. While The Family has been presented as a revealing documentary about Kadyrov's regime and the critical human rights situation in Chechnya, it is the Russia – oriented, orientalizing approach that is most prominent in the film. It is worth noting the division of roles and who is mentioned in the film. With Kadyrov in the role of despot, the Chechens take on the role of victims – while the analysis and expert comments are Russian journalists, political scientists, human rights defenders and Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself. When we meet Chechen human rights activists in the Grozny branch of the Committee against Torture, it is not in the role of experts – these activists are presented as victims in line with the rest of the Chechen people.

In the film, the Russian political scientist Stanislav Belkovski claims that Kadyrov's regime in Chechnya is about Putin actually losing the Chechnya war, and that Chechnya under Kadyrov enjoys an independence the country has never had before. The Russian journalists Ksenia Sobchak and Xenia Sokolova paint a picture of Kadyrov as a kind of Frankenstein figure who can turn against Russia. The head of the Committee against Torture, Human Rights Lawyer Igor Kaljapin, who sits on Putin's Human Rights Council, expresses concern that the only thing that connects Kadyrov and Chechnya to Russia is the close personal relationship between the leaders. We get to see two sequences where Putin refers to Kadyrov as a son, and Kadyrov describes Putin as his idol.

Khodorkovsky himself takes on the task of summarizing and concluding, and assumes that the remaining Chechnya must be raised to the level at which the rest of Russia is, if the country is to remain in the Russian sphere and its danger averted.

The purpose of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's documentary is to draw an enemy image of Kadyrov – not only for the Chechens, but for Russia and the rest of the world – while the Putin regime is free. Putin therefore has every reason to be happy. Khodorkovsky has obviously learned his lesson: He deals with the conditions of his release. With this documentary, he does not challenge, but substantiates the power and legitimacy of the Putin regime.

Chechen lawyer:
- A propaganda film

"This film covers the real situation in Chechnya," says Chechen Akhmed Gisaev.

Ny Tid has been in contact with the Chechen lawyer and human rights activist Akhmed Gisaev to get his comment on the film. Gisaev has a background from the human rights organization Memorial in Grozny, but had to flee with his family from Kadyrov's security forces in connection with reprisals in 2009. He was granted asylum in Norway, and has since lived in Oslo. Here Gisaev went straight into work as an adviser in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, until in 2015 he started his own organization Human Rights Analysis Center. Gisaev has full days, and is a frequent guest at the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg and other European and Norwegian courtrooms and hearings, as an expert on the human rights situation in the Caucasus.

He is not gracious in his mention of either the documentary The Family or the author. "I see this film as a piece of pure Russian propaganda," Gisaev states. "Khodorkovsky covers the real situation in Chechnya. Why does it not appear in the film that Ramzan Kadyrov was installed in the role of president in Chechnya after Putin's decree and at Putin's mercy – without this having even been democratically legitimized through elections? " he asks.

Scapegoat. Gisaev believes Kadyrov is a quisling for Russia's occupation of Chechnya. "He represents the interests of the Putin regime alone, not the people of Chechnya. "Kadyrov can hardly go to the toilet or drink a cup of tea without an order from Moscow," said Gisaev.

"What Putin is doing in Chechnya through Ramzan Kadyrov was described a long time ago by the political philosopher Montesquieu, and dares to be well known. It's about the ruler's need for a scapegoat, a 'mini me ', to have someone to blame for their own crimes. This should be obvious to Western researchers and educated decision-makers, "says Gisaev, who says he never ceases to be surprised at how naive Western decision-makers and the media are in the face of Russian propaganda.

"Kadyrov can barely go to the toilet or drink a cup of tea without an order from Moscow."

Fake opposition. He believes the angle in this documentary is an expression of the difficult situation of the Russian democratic opposition. "The opposition is divided – between those who fight for their own interests and those who are driven by democratic principles. Mikhail Khodorkovsky belongs to the first category, and only this economically oriented and harmless opposition Putin allows. The democratic opposition is being cracked down on, "Gisaev said. "I would like to remind you that prominent members of the democratic part of the opposition, such as Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov, were killed to set an example."

Gisaev's Chechen human rights and democracy perspective is absent from Khodorkovsky's documentary on Kadyrov's Chechnya. However, we are fortunate to have this expertise wandering among us, in exile from Putin's Chechnya.

What do you mean? Watch the movie YouTube and judge for yourself.

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