original title: Grozny Blues
2015, 104 min., DCP, Russian-Chechen
Cinematographer : Simon Guy Fässler
Producers : Frank Matter
Festival del film Locarno (Panorama Suisse) 2015, Festival Visions du Réel, Nyon (International Competition) 2015, GOLDEN APRICOT, Yerevan International Film Festival (Competition) 2015, CinéDOC-Tbilisi 2015, DOK Leipzig 2015, The Riga International Film Festival 2015, Artdocfest 2015 (Competition), IDFA 2015
Zaza Rusadze The images of war seem forgotten – Chechnya has vanished long ago from the headlines of the Western press. The traces of the years of military conflict with Russia have all but disappeared in the capital of Grozny, which boasts new promenades, modern high-rises and blinding street lights. The surface is shiny, but pain is still rooted deep in the people’s souls. A country that’s about to forget its past and that’s full of monuments to its President Kadyrov and, next to him, Vladimir Putin. Four women who have fought for human rights for years are trying to preserve the collective memories. They have been collecting stories on video ever since the war began in the 1990s, documenting the horrors of war and its consequences which nobody in official Chechnya wants to see. The film ingeniously juxtaposes images from their archive and images of Grozny today. The history of the war of independence and a forgotten genocide lies between them.
«Grozny Blues» follows a few people around Grozny, the capital of war-torn Chechnya where daily life is defined by political repression, constricting customs, forced Islamification and the failure to come to terms with recent history. The film revolves around four women who have been fighting for human rights under worsening conditions for many years but get more and more disillusioned with the situation in Putin’s Russia. The building where they work is also home to a Blues Club that is frequented by a group of young people. Having only vague memories of the Chechen wars in the 90s, they try to make sense of the strange things that are happening in their country. In linking the personal and intimate to the political, Nicola Bellucci shows in a dramatic and yet very poetic way what it means to live in a divided society that navigates a no-man’s land between war and peace, repression and freedom, archaic traditions and modern life.
Grozny Blues is a haunting, often dreamlike documentary about Chechen people caught between the contradictory pressures of manufactured realities and coerced silences. Right from the beginning, as the film opens with a quotation from Bertolt Brecht, ‘It said in the papers this morning that a new era has begun’ it is clear that director Nicola Bellucci’s documentary Grozny Blues, a masterful work about contemporary Chechnya, is fixated with contrasting today’s Chechnya – the Chechnya of Ramzan Kadyrov – with Chechnya’s past.
“There are many stories untold, says Bellucci, I am trying to present some of them in an interesting way. I was interested to know how people live in Chechnya, especially women, who are the most repressive class of the society. People were talking about their lives with so difficulty. For me, it was also very difficult to persuade them, because they did not feel them safe”, says the film director.
Instead of a formal indictment, Grozny Blues is like a mastercut of small, telling moments all spliced together. By going micro, we see just how systemically dysfunctional the Chechen Republic has become. As its subjects become more widely known internationally, they will probably be less likely disappear in the dark of night. Therefore, the mesmerizing and alarming Grozny Blues is recommended with considerable urgency…
««Grozny Blues» is a web of associations, suggestive and full of contrasts, a film without commentary or text inserts. A cinematic journey of multiple narratives that form together into a unified image, which has little to do with the clichés of the Kalashnikov–‐toting terrorists from the Caucasus. Instead we are presented with the simultaneity of destruction and everyday life in Chechnya, of a past that has been leveled and a surreal normality.(…) A form of carnival–‐esque subversion seems to be present in this post–‐war Chechnya. A kind of creative infiltration that Nicola Bellucci employs as a tool when swirling together different time periods in «Grozny Blues». He invokes the devastation until it runs through the veins of everyday existence and the office towers in Grozny seem like gravestones. He keeps those who have disappeared alive, as a form of ghostly consciousness in the present. He collides things together so that we can make our own connections. We are frightened – and illuminated».
«This kaleidoscopic documentary offers fragmentary narratives (…) disturbing», – Bertrand Tappolet, Le Courrier, Geneva
««Grozny Blues» reconstructs both the past and the present of this traumatized region: two hours of goosebumps during which archival video material and manifestations of presentday neo-fascism and collective forgetting are presented», – Carlota Mosegui, El antepenúltimo mohicano, Cáceres, Spain
«Every time «Grozny Blues» presents a relatively harmless image of everyday life in the city, every time when you can breath normally again, feel secure, and think that maybe it’s not that bad (in Chechnya), Nicola Bellucci shows excerpts from the video material that the women shot during the war, (it’s) full of destruction, misery, and death. (…) If there is no better future for Grozny in sight, then everyone should at least know about the events that led things down this path», – Mark Kuzmanic, Billet.ch
««Grozny Blues» is a journey as passionate as it is dramatic, into a paradoxical Chechnya divided between a phantasmagorical past and an apparently (post) apocalyptic future. The lucid and sensitive gaze of Nicola Bellucci explores this uncertain land, digs through the few remaining ruins to bring to light a past that screams otherworldliness. (…) «Grozny Blues» tries to give a voice to the ghosts haunting the Chechnyan capital using a complex system of echoes. The droning sound of revolutionary speeches, the dramatic images of war (bravely compiled by the three activists who are transformed in a common thread of the film) are often placed in parallel with the fake glitz of everyday life like a scream which, instead of going on forever, is blocked by a huge wall, bouncing back in the form of an echo, again and again.(…) Since talking about it is prohibited, another form of communication has come about, which Nicola Bellucci captures magnificently, made up of gestures, gazes, ghosts still lingering in the empty houses and laughter echoing in the ears of those who are left.
The desperate testimonies of the few militants who still live in Grozny and the extraordinarily rich archive material that Bellucci brings to life in his film throw us into an extremely complex reality that of a dreamt-of Caucasus that became a nightmare. A deep and sensitive piece, which deserves our undivided attention»
Der letztlich entstehende Gesamteindruck ist gar nicht so leicht in Worte zu fassen. Die Lage vor Ort ist komplex, so viel nehme ich mit. Religiöser und politischer Druck reiben stark an den Menschen und es fehlt an wirklichen Perspektiven. Starke Bilder begleiten mich mit aus dem Saal und im Gepäck einige intensive Eindrücke der Gefühlswelten von Menschen, welche in einer diffusen Ungewissheit leben.
El film de Nicola Bellucci construye un diálogo entre el pasado bélico de Chechenia y el presente de las nuevas generaciones pro-Putin. Una disputa formal, basada en un montaje de plano-contraplano, que alterna footage casero de cadáveres de niños mutilados durante las bombardeos de Grozny en la Segunda Guerra Chechena –filmados a finales de los noventa y principios de este siglo por las ex-cineastas amateurs que protagonizan el documental– con escenas actuales tomadas en las mismas localizaciones donde se celebran meetings políticios de ultra-derecha. Grozny Blues desarrolla el mensaje contrario al propuesto por Michael Wahrmann en Avanti Popolo: la juventud no participa del recuerdo de la opresión vivida durante los regímenes totalitarios o la guerra, sino que toda la memoria histórica de un país cae en el olvido.