Manon Loizeau: Chechnya, War without Trace

French journalist and documentary maker Manon Loizeau has made a remarkable film about todays Chechnya that premiered on Arte last week and just received the Grand Prize of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) at the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva this Saturday.

Loizeau has lived in Russia for many years and she has covered Chechnya since 1995. In Chechnya, War without Trace she returns for the first time in 10 years. Gone are the ravaged buildings of war-torn Grozny, the city has been completely rebuild and transformed in to something that resembles a Caucasian mini-Dubai with glass-facade towers and colourful neon lights along sleek avenues now named after Kadyrov and Putin. Gone are the traces of the two recent wars with Russia (a fifth of the population died), Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic since now eight years, has cleaned it all up. Supported by Russia, he holds the population with the use of fear. A reign of terror where the fight against terrorism, encouraged by Russia, becomes a carte blanche for a monsterous regime turned against its own people. Disappearances, torture, death squads, false accusations of terrorism or drug possession. But also the eradication of the history and the memory of the Chechen people, who has fought fiercely for independence from Russia for centuries (such as when the commemoration of the deportation of Chechens under Stalin in 1944 was replaced with a celebration of the Winter Olympic in Sochi last year). It is absolutely terrifying. And it is an impressive achievement that Loizeau has been able to gather the voices of the few who still dares to speak. The film is dedicated to the memory of Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova.

Loizeau is showing us the immensely sad latest chapter of the history of Chechnya. And she is also giving us an important part of the picture, the context and history, in order to better understand Russian politics, Putin and the situation in Ukraine as well as the apparent powerstruggles behind the pointing out of a suspect for the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

Here are the comments of the jury in Geneva: For its strength and accuracy in the testimony of human rights violations, its tribute to victims of torture and kidnappings by the regime of Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules as an absolute autocrat. The film reminds us of the dramatic situation, which continues to escape international notice.

Manon Loizeau: Tchétchénie, une guerre sans traces / Tschetschenien – Vergessen auf Befehl, France, 2014, 82 min., prod. Magneto Presse for Arte

You can watch the film in French or German at Arte+7 until March 11th:

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Sara Thelle
Sara Thelle
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