×

Coca – The Dove From Chechnya: Europe In Denial Of A War

A stocky, middle-aged woman trudges through Europe toting a plastic Calvin Klein bag full of irrefutable evidence of Russian atrocities. Zainap Gashaeva (aka Coca) has made it her dangerous occupation to document the war in Chechnya from the side no one ever sees. Strong human-rights docu has a real shot at limited theatrical play.

A stocky, middle-aged woman trudges through Europe toting a plastic Calvin Klein bag full of irrefutable evidence of Russian atrocities. Zainap Gashaeva (aka Coca) has made it her dangerous occupation to document the war in Chechnya from the side no one ever sees. Eric Bergkraut’s film follows this mother of four as she hacks through a wall with an ax to retrieve a hidden videotape or sits down with grieving women to tape-record their testimony as to how their sons died. Strong human-rights docu has a real shot at limited theatrical play.

The systematic annihilation of the Chechen people by Russian troops has gone largely unreported, in part because Chechnya has been closed off to journalists and international observers. On her rounds, Coca connects with a hidden network of Chechen women with their own caches of carefully labeled tapes and photo albums of the dying and the dead. Entrusted by her countrywomen with these meticulously gathered accounts, she delivers them to European human-rights organizations to be cataloged and entered in their computerized databases. Once archived, these testimonials are sometimes joined by tapes of abuses sent in by Russian soldiers, sickened by what they had, at first, boastfully camcorded.

Helmer Bergkraut offers little historical context for the decades-long battle for Chechen independence, an ongoing conflict characterized by brutality on both sides. Coca makes no attempt to justify the terrorist activities of Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and his followers. Rather, she highlights the state-sanctioned violence that hides under the all-encompassing anti-terrorist umbrella, allowing a nation to violate standards of decency by targeting a whole people as potential insurgents.

The contrast is startling between the raw emotion of eyewitness descriptions of atrocities (Coca’s voice quavers as she recounts filming a young boy’s last breath) and the matter-of-fact minutiae of everyday life among activists.

Camera familiarizes viewers with the homely circumstances of people who might be “disappeared” at any moment, including a family friend who is abducted during the course of Bergkraut’s documentary. Docu also highlights a Moscow-based Russian journalist reporting on Russian abuses in Chechnya who has survived death threats and a recent poisoning attempt.

Popular on Variety

Coca - The Dove From Chechnya: Europe In Denial Of A War

Switzerland

Production: A Doc Prods., Eric Bergkraut production in association with SF DRS, SRG SSR idee suisee, ARTE, YLE TV1. Producer, Rose-Marie Schneider. Executive producer, Schneider. Co-producer Eric Bergkraut. Directed, written by Eric Bergkraut.

Crew: Camera (color, 35mm and DV), Laurent Stoop; editor, Mireille Abramovici; music, Marie-Jeanne Serero; sound (Dolby SR) Martin Witz. Reviewed at the Tribeca Cinema, April 6, 2005. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- competing). Running time: 89 MIN. (Russian, Chechen, English, German dialogue)

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Inside the Spider-Man Split: Finger-Pointing and Executive Endgames

    Spider-Man’s neighborhood has been decidedly unfriendly this week. A private and contentious battle over the onscreen future of the beloved Marvel superhero has spilled out into the public square over the past few days. After making nice for two wildly successful films, Sony Pictures, which holds the licensing rights to the Marvel character, will go [...]

  • Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch for 2019

    Variety has announced its 10 Actors to Watch for 2019, an honor the publication has bestowed since 1998. Past honorees include many future Oscar winners and nominees, such as Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and Melissa Leo. This year’s honorees will be feted in the Oct. 27 issue of [...]

  • August Maturo

    Film News Roundup: August Maturo to Star in Horror Movie 'Slapface'

    In today’s film news roundup, August Maturo gets a starring role and “Death of Me” and “Fatale” find homes. CASTING “Girl Meets World” star August Maturo has been cast as the lead character in the upcoming indie horror feature, “Slapface.” Maturo will play a boy who deals with the loss of his mother by creating [...]

  • Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star

    Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star in Virtual Reality Project 'Glimpse'

    Taron Egerton and Lucy Boynton will star in “Glimpse,” a new virtual reality experience that will be unveiled at the Venice Film Festival. Written and directed by Benjamin Cleary and VR creator Michael O’Connor, “Glimpse” will be entered in the Venice Virtual Reality Interactive showcase. It’s set in the imaginative mind of a heartbroken panda, [...]

  • Dan Trachtenberg

    Tom Holland's 'Uncharted' Movie Loses Director

    Dan Trachtenberg has exited the director’s chair for Sony’s “Uncharted” movie starring Tom Holland, with the studio taking meetings with top filmmakers and production starting early next year. The studio confirmed Trachtenberg’s departure Thursday. It also said Sony-based PlayStation Productions — headed by Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan — had come on to produce alongside [...]

  • Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel

    Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel to Head Film Department

    Participant Media has named industry veterans Anikah McLaren and Robert Kessel as co-heads of the company’s film department with the titles of executive vice president. Both executives will report together to Participant CEO David Linde, who made the announcement Thursday. McLaren joins Participant having most recently served as a production executive for Fox Searchlight Pictures. [...]

  • 'The Son' Review: Bosnian Family Drama

    Sarajevo Film Review: 'The Son'

    It is a mixed blessing to be born in the aftermath of a war. On the one hand, you never have to experience the terror and suffering your parents did; on the other, you grow up with your own personal crises forever made to feel smaller by comparison. That, at least, is the frustration driving [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content