See you in Chechnya is not properly a war documentary, it is a collection of memories on the backdrop of war in Chechnya; it is something more intimate and intense, a journey into very special people’s lives, people who have chosen to go to war. Why do you go to war when you don’t have to is the question your documentary raises, the core issue of See you in Chechnya.
Alex, did you find your answer in the end?
I think there is not only one answer, not just one, it is something personally. I did not want to become a war reporter, I was not a real professional war reporter. When I went to war it was quite an accident, it was a bit experimental. I wanted to measure myself. In my case there was nothing politically or geographically.
1999 was the beginning of the second Chechneya war. How was the situation in Georgia, your country, when all began? You were just over 20 and in the film you say you knew hardly anything about what was happing over the border.
Georgia was esperiencing economic difficulties after the independence, my country was tying to recover politically and economically after the independence from Moscow.
We had no communication with Chechnya, the only news we got from this country came from the Russian TV and you can image what kind of news they were. For us Chechnya was the worst place to go.
You depict six incredible people living remarkable lives. How much is fiction, if any?
The only cinematic element I put in the film was in assembling scenes in the open. When I am on the road, for example, with Renzo Martens the French photographer.
When I was working on the film I filmed lot of reconstruction scenes but I decided not to use them.
You met many people, people who chose to go to war, risk everything to tell the world what was happening in Chechnya, an enclave unknown to most. You call them contemporary heroes whose business was death. Which of them, of the characters we see in See you in Chechnya affected you most?
It is difficult to say, as I have great respect for all. I will try… The French photographer Renzo Martens I saw only one day, there was very little time.
You met Antonio Russo.
Antonio Russo was one of the strongest charachter. When I decided to do this film he was found killed. This tragedy was a trigger to keep on with my project. Giorgio Forgioni was another special person.
I was particularly struck by Nick Doney.
Yes, I can understand, he is deep.
Did you meet some of them after the filming?
I met again Giorgio but this meeting was part of the film. I went to South Africa to meet Nick Doney but again it became part of the film.
After the film I just shared few emails. I know Giorgio had the opportunity to watch the film in Milano at the Human Right Film Festival. He told me he was touched, he had positive reaction. I was very pleased.
Which is your present position about being a war reporter? It is even more difficult than in the days of See you in Chechnya. There are wars and battle fronts much more out of control, unpredictable, often with unknown enemies, militia, terrorists, suicide bombers. In 2017 would you do the same, the same choises?
I think the question remains the same even today. The danger is the same. To me, personal motivations would be quite the same today.
As you say in the film “If you go to war, war returns home with you. Have you been again to Chechnya after the war?
In 2008 war was in Georgia, there were Russian tanks. For five days I was there, I was crossing the frontline with a British agency. It was scary, more scary as war was in my land. That was my second experience with war.
In 2006 Chechnya Film Festival invited me. I went but the reality I saw was not convincing. I would say it was a fake.
What do you regret most in your experience in Chechnya?
I don’t know, I would need more time to think.
Last question, what about your next production?
I am exploring few ideas but nothing I ca say ok I am working on it. It is all at very early stage mentally prepare.