Chechen war pic unspools in Vyborg

Helmer Alexei Uchitel’s “Captive,” set during Russia’s war with breakaway province Chechnya, opened Russia’s 16th Window on Europe Festival on Friday — the day Russian tanks entered neighboring Georgia in a dispute over Georgia’s breakaway territory Southern Ossetia.

Uchitel’s film, which won him best director last month at the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary Film Festival, tells the story of a young Chechen and his Russian captor during the bitter civil war that raged in the separatist Caucasian region in the 1990s.

For a Russian production, “Captive” paints an unusually sympathetic portrait of Chechens. Title has long been scheduled to open the fest, held in the city of Vyborg, western Russia, close to its border with Finland.

Pic is part of the Vyborg Account sidebar devoted to local films that have won plaudits domestically or overseas and is designed to give ordinary people a chance to pass judgment rather than critics.

Sidebar runs parallel to a competition program traditionally rich in documentary and animation works.

The news from Southern Ossetia dominating Russian media broadcasts is likely to have given an edge to the screening of Uchitel’s film.

The military clash in Southern Ossetia was sparked when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered tanks and artillery to cross the border with Georgia to come to the aid of ethnic Russian separatists in Southern Ossetia, following the reported deaths of 10 Russian peacekeepers and around 30 civilians in clashes with Georgian forces.

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