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13 April 2011


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Sikharulidze is a Georgian (as in the country of, not the state) name. The film's wikipedia entry notes that his character speaks Georgian throughout the movie, rather than Chechen (apparently, it's based on the First Chechen War, not the Afghan War.)

Kinda impressive timing, given the year the film was made--wasn't the First Chechen War still ongoing in 1996?

Charles I

Sounds great, Memories of The Beast, reversed, in two languages with transnational love and a nod to the Russian Mothers thrown in.

I recall the BTR-60 sold as a fearsome NBC-fitted taxi that'd be ferrying hordes of Rooshans through the Fulda Gap beside the tank onslaught that followed the nuking of NATO - Au Revoir DDR, tanks for the forward battlespace - that Ronnie Reagan saved us from before he brought down the Wall.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention I find theses foreign films are generally more engrossing than your run of the mill say, Hurt Locker. Lebanon comes to mind. might just be the cultural difference.

I just watched the German file The Lives of Others, about a Stasi surveillance/suppression op against a DDR German playwright. It had some stereotypical portrayals - the rapist Deputy Secretary driving the op - but compellingly revealing at once.


For a chilling musical take (music music, not musical theater, luckily) on Chechnya (or wherever we'd rather not be), check out Richard Shindell's "You Stay Here".


Palestine (1 Kings 20) ... Chechnya .... Afghanistan .... whatever ....

"The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills, and you shall understand it."

The grey men never do

Some Caucasus er, um ... backstory

Russian documentary on WW1 Savage Division http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KeZaKDfvlc in ultra-lo res.

other Russian movie likes:

At Home Among Strangers

A Driver for Vera (anything read about this is a spoiler - ANYTHING)

Seventeen Moments of Spring. After the first couple of sit-thrus of the whole 14 hours Muller becomes the protagonist. Leonid Bronevoy was an irresistible actor.

Bodrov's Mongol. It doesn't matter that it is too big, too beautiful, and Sun Honglei is too good for it to work as a whole. Looking forward to Mongol II.

all are at YT - most are unsegmented.


I've only had a chance to watch half (the sweet one, it seems) of the movie so far, but I spent a bit of time in this region, up along the Georgian-Chechen border, and thought I would throw in a few tidbits about the locale. I didn't meet any Russian soldiers when I was there, but I very much recognize the characters of Hassan and Abdul, as well as Dina (and the various old women always working, working, working, and watching from a distance). This part of the high Caucuses is an achingly beautiful place, and the cultures there are unique in many ways but one could say also typical of 'mountain people' everywhere. There are probably dozens of distinct cultural identity groupings in this region (not tribes per se, but getting close), some Georgian, and others Chechen, but they mostly all wear the tall hats and the long coats. They share a mutual hatred for Russia (although not necessarily Russian people), and the story goes that many of these villages even successfully resisted all Soviet-era attempts to collectivize, deport, and pacify them, including under Stalin and Beria.

Socially, they’re egalitarian, with no village ‘leader,’ and disputes are traditionally settled either via negotiation, sometimes moderated by respected elders, or through violence or the threat thereof. Blood feuds are to be avoided but can occur, and when settled the tradition in some places is to nail the severed hand of the unfortunate party to one’s front door. Among the Georgians at least, women are respected to the point of being worshipped, but also do most of the work and are prohibited from for example sitting at the same table as a man. I don’t know the status of women among the Chechen peoples there, but from the movie it seemed like it might be somewhat similar. Religion up there is an interesting mix of either Orthodox Christianity (Georgians) or Sufi Islam (Chechens) with worship of nature and the earth. Weapons are ubiquitous, and they are hospitable to a level that most ‘modern’ people would probably find disconcerting.

One interesting morsel, and one to which maybe Col Lang or others here can speak: Legend has it that one of the Georgian groups up in this area (the Khevsur people) are direct descendents of Crusaders who settled there on the way back from the holy land. This may be just a legend, although their traditional dress includes chainmail and boys are raised to be swordsmen.


For those interested, here is a little music video for the traditional song "shatilis asulo," which is nice representation of some of the traditions of the high Caucuses.


FYI, the song is about the village of Shatili, which is on the Georgian side of the border (http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5232/)



Did you read LeCarre's Our Game?


rjj, No but I will now. Thanks!

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