Gerard Depardieu goes to Chechnya to film next movie
Depardieu and actress Liz Hurley are paying a visit to Chechnya to make a movie, in what appears to be an effort to remake the former war zone's international image.
Russians often grit their teeth at the way their country is portrayed in Hollywood films: a grim, wintry post-Soviet wasteland peopled with mafia thugs, drunks, and Kremlin megalomaniacs.Skip to next paragraph
Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998.
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That may be set to change, thanks in part to a global movie star, "the Russian actor of French origin" Gerard Depardieu, who was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin last January after he ditched his native France in a huff over high taxes.
Mr. Depardieu, who has become a vocal booster of his new homeland, is currently making a movie in Moscow and its repeatedly war-ravaged southern republic of Chechnya. It's a fairly standard blood-and-guts thriller called "Biryuza" (Turqoise) – a tale of tragedy, betrayal, lots and lots of mayhem and, finally, sweet bloody revenge.
But Depardieu and the film's producers are making it clear that this movie's backdrop will be graphically different from the sad, impoverished land so often depicted by Hollywood. It will be set amid the glittering skyscrapers and swank nightclubs of Putin-era Moscow and the risen-from-the-ashes boulevards and modern apartment blocks of postwar Chechnya. And it will feature many noble Russian – and Chechen – characters, as well as the usual gangsters.
With his co-star, British actress Liz Hurley, and director Philippe Martinez in tow, Depardieu faced journalists at a press conference in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on Wednesday to explain why he chose Chechnya to make a violent vengeance-themed movie.
"I followed everything that happened here and saw a city totally rebuilt and very sympathetic people," he said. "I saw more love and friendship than hate here."
But, perhaps also in the Putin-era spirit, anyone with questions about human rights abuses or the arbitrary one-man rule of Depardieu's "very close friend," pro-Moscow Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, was made to feel extremely unwelcome.
Asked by a journalist whether there were any parallels to be found in the fictional Depardieu's character's murderous revenge streak that culminates in Chechnya, and the real-life assassinations of Mr. Kadyrov's political foes that have been documented by human rights monitors, the film's director Mr. Martinez exploded in fury, according to the Independent.
"I have to tell you I’m a bit ashamed that you are asking that question," he is quoted as saying. "Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley are making a movie in Chechnya! And you’re asking questions of a political nature! I don’t even want to answer."