Children of Beslan

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Ratings: 8.13/10 from 15 users.

Storyline

Children of BeslanIn Russia, Sept. 1 is the Day of Knowledge, a joyous annual event marking the start of the new school year. But Knowledge Day 2004 was different at School No. 1 in Beslan: A group of heavily armed rebel extremists stormed the school, holding more than a thousand children and adults hostage in a sweltering gymnasium for three days.

The harrowing siege ended Sept. 3 in a series of explosions and hail of gunfire that killed some 350 people - half of them children. Featuring heartbreaking interviews with more than a dozen young survivors, as well as chilling footage shot by the hostage-takers themselves, Children of Beslan explores the devastating impact of violent conflict on children.

Through the words of those left orphaned and bereft of family and friends, details of the 57-hour siege emerge, from the confusing first moments, when pupils heard noises they thought were balloons popping, to the numbing hours and days in the overheated gymnasium, to the devastating final hours, when bombs taped to walls and suspended from ceilings went off, and hundreds of panicked hostages, bullets flying around them, began scrambling over the bodies of victims in search of safety.

Ranging in age from 6 to 12, the kids recount the events that robbed them of their family, friends and innocence - describing experiences that are chillingly familiar. The Beslan siege ultimately killed more adults and children than the tragic 2002 Moscow theater siege by Chechen extremists.

Most surviving children now study at another school in town, with some fearful parents still accompanying them to school. The children's scars, visible and hidden, remain. "I have fewer friends than I used to," says Carat. "The ones who survived - we're not the same funny kids we used to be, we're serious now. We're already grownups. We don't fight anymore... Even little boys became adults. Kids understand everything."

Children of Beslan exposes the impact of violent conflict on those who are rarely heard from, but are often the most deeply affected by its aftermath: children.

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25 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Immortal

    "There is no God, just force, military force."

    My beliefs are rather here nor there but hearing that child's idea on reality is pretty sad for such a young age. An even more disturbing is how true that statement is in this case and many others.

    :(

  2. JK

    At the end, you turn into what you are fighting against :(

  3. Backslider

    This documentary could give someone without knowledge of the history or the conflict a pretty one-sided view. While you can't help but feel deeply sympathetic for the families involved, there is a darker story here hidden between the lines.

    The Russian-Chechen conflict runs deep, and neither side is innocent.

    That being said - why don't groups that fight for their independence realize that actions like this only propagate hatred toward them and thus perpetuate conflict on both sides? You can plainly see the impact that it's left on the children and families that were taken hostage... They will live the rest of their lives with a deep distrust and hatred for the Chechen people, and just like any idea it will spread and touch others who weren't directly involved, and for those others it will influence their stance on the situation.

    To me the only purpose this incident served other than the needless loss of life was to increase Russian public support against an independent Chechnya.

    Sadly, this story is not unique.

  4. Imightberiding

    @Backslider

    Well said....

    I'm sitting this one out though. Too emotional for me when children are victimized by adults & I might say something too controversial or that I may regret later.

  5. Steve

    it seems(I could be wrong)that what the children were saying was scripted.“There is no God, just force, military force,” what child says something like that,or the translation has been modified.

  6. Backslider

    @Steve

    I was thinking the exact same thing. There were a variety of other deep thoughts of the theological persuasion from these kids as well.

    I also entertained the idea that children in other parts of the world (I'm from the US) may receive a more robust education that starts at a younger age than we do here in the states. In the USA we're so used to kids of this age talking about transformers batman and school plays and cartoons that I think we sometimes take for granted that they have great brains capable of deep thoughts.

    The part where the older girl reminded her younger sister of a story kind of made me think that maybe these kids were using their own words, but that some of the words had perhaps been borrowed from overheard conversations their parents may have been having. I'm sure they've all heard the grownup's version of the story a thousand times.

    Either seems completely plausible to me.

  7. owene

    "I was hoping that Harry Potter would come."

    heartbreaking.

  8. Imightberiding

    @Steve & Backslider (you sinner you)

    I agree. This is partly why I didn't want to comment. I'm convinced by both my experience as a child & helping to raise 3 step children for the last 11 years that a good percentage of what the children had to say in this doc was learned or mimicked through thoughts, words, ideas of the adults they are close to or exposed to & again it is just another way to "F" up a child who has already been traumatized. When or where does it stop? If the adults truly want a peace-full, happy, safe existence for the generations to follow then stop exploiting & using children in their wicked processes & horrific games of destruction. It will only perpetuate a vicious cycle. As Backslider mentioned, this is not unique & ideas spread, touch & influence.

    It is a known medical/psychological fact that children's brains are not even fully developed until well past puberty. Closer to college age in fact. This is partly why it is nearly impossible to reason with a child under the age of 18 or 19. It is true a persons life imprint if you will, is established early on, say by about 3 to 5 years of age, but their brains literally are still under developed until the ages I mentioned above. It is impossible for a child to correctly reason or develop any critical thinking prior to this cerebral development. Of course like all things in life there are exceptions.

    I know, I know, controversial but it is a proven fact by the medical/psych profession. This is why we all carry trauma or if we are fortunate, good & appropriate behavior into adulthood. Pretty much any thing a child thinks or has to say or has an opinion about, is recited learned knowledge. Not original thought. I can go into great depth but I will not.

    These short sited, vengeful adults seeking whatever it is their minds are bent towards (I include all of humanity, the east & the west, the religious zealots & secular minded, the financial & military driven) will only be able to sit by & watch as their history is repeated time & again. The learned behavior of their children. "The sins of the father & all that...."

    At any rate I have gone on far too long. What a horrid tragedy for these families & especially the children. It's F@#$ers like this that never learned or understood the concept of "Pick on some body your own size". Sure the soldiers, police, parents, teachers & even terrorists may grieve the loss of their partners, but it's the children who pay the ultimate life long price. Always to continue generation to generation as their children's minds are polluted with ridiculous biased hatred.

    I too would seek revenge if my loved ones were hurt or worse. But how to accomplish this without staining our children?

    Peace out brothers & sisters! :(

  9. Steve

    When kids are growing up they learn a ''base line thought'',this thought usually consists of''how to get what i want to make my life better.

    Children learn this from there parents and society,They want the cool car and big house.However imagine that the base line thought is changed to ''How to kill and make suffer the people that killed my mother''.If you throw in an intelligent kid to the mix,what you get is evident in the above video.Someone who's sole objective in life is revenge.

    And so you have a never ending circle of revenge,This is of course just my thoughts on the matter,but I always believed that you cant fight fire with fire,the only way to do this is burn everything.

  10. Ricko

    Really, really hard to watch. So sad, what can you say? War is stupid, people are stupid.

  11. Andrew C

    I can't help but wonder,what crimes the Russian military/regime carried out against the Chechnyan people that cause these criminals to butcher a school.

    I wonder how many of their children are scarred?

    In the end I blame corrupt governments and greedy individuals for this more then the actual terrorists who are also victims/pawns in this story.

  12. Ricko

    @ Andrew C – Completely agree, its the action of a few greedy individuals that are the cause of so much suffering.

  13. Brian

    Who is suppose to take their rebellion seriously with such nonsense.

  14. K.T

    I've seen how children and teenagers change when something devastating happens in their life.
    When my friend's father died (she was only 12) she wasn't interested in Pokemon and movies anymore, it was all about life and death. Tragedy does make people grow up faster through necessity.
    I do believe those children were honest with their emotions.
    For me as a spectator I can easily think this will only lead to a chain reaction of more hate. But I can't pretend I don't understand why they can't find the strength to stop that chain.
    One of the most tragic documentaries I've ever seen...

  15. Sar

    I don't agree with taking a child that age back to the school, to the room where his father was killed. I'm worried that filming this documentary may have retraumatized children unnecessarily.

  16. sasidhar

    one girl spoke she burns a picture of terrorist everyday. man, this kind of behavior reminds me of a psycho. other children also talked as if they gonna take revenge on terrorists.

    i think the children should be counseled so they may live a happy life(or even a normal life) again.

  17. Temirova

    @ Andrew C.. I agree too.

  18. jack1952

    @ Andrew C.

    Russian have been quite oppressive in the past. This does not excuse what happened in this school. Atrocities should not be counted on a scorecard. Each act is new and is an individual enterprise. A tally can only help to justify future inhumane actions and does nothing to address current problems.

  19. MIRNAD

    "I still don't understand how they can measure lives with money".. broke my heart when i listened to that.

  20. Melanie Ponticorvo

    I always wanted to know what had happened, I only recall a three-second mention on the five'o'clock news of it. These children seem so very bright, and mature. Given what they've been through though, it's no surprise.

  21. Polina Kaganovich

    you are wrong... of course there is a lot lost in translation in this movie. As someone who is fluent in Russian, I find the subtitles are a lot less powerful than what the children actually say. As for your "what child says something like that" question, oh, I don't know. Maybe one that was held hostage in a gym for 3 days & watched most of their friends & probably family get blown to pieces?

  22. Sanjuana Gabriela Enríquez Gal

    The Russians want Chechnya to stay a part of Russia.
    After a hospital siege in 1995 the Russians agreed to withdraw the military and let the Chechens establish a de facto government.
    But warlordism hurt the government, and Basayev invaded Ingushetia. Putin put troops to suppress that ,leading to the second Chechen War.
    The Russians were overly aggressive in bombing Grozy and other places.

  23. Gadim

    I waited for Harry Potter to save us, but he didn't show up...

    Very sad to see what terrorism brought, children full of hatred. Many of them will probably be killers in the end.... :(

  24. Sugarbush43

    The words and thoughts of these children is heartbreaking more than anything. They reveal just what such trauma can do to a young spirit. I don't believe everything they're saying is fed to them or something they picked up from an adult. Children of very young ages can reason, to think otherwise is to take the young minds for granted. I'm horrified that even these young children knew to run a zig-zag pattern to avoid getting hit by a bullet. A child so young should not know that nor should they need to know that.

    I don't see the young girl burning the drawings as a "psycho". As she made abundantly clear, she will need to do this for the rest of her life and that no amount of revenge will ever be enough. She knows this is the only outlet she has and it is all for herself and her own need for revenge. it sounds far more mature, sane, and grounded than the reaction would be of most adults.

    Now I need to go hold my son and be grateful that he most likely will never have to endure something such as this.

  25. TERRY72763

    @Imightberiding
    You may think your showing wisdom, or academic prowess. But! In fact you haven't read the basel human development classics, by Carl Menninger.
    I recently received an e-mail statement telling of the intention of the Academic Society's intention to use my submit question in their published work, as well as their intention to use it in a live rss feed debate, question program. Along with an accompanying submission history of my submitted papers log, and anecdotal comment of how at 9 years of age, 11 years of age, and at 16 years of age, that it had been many, many years since my last submital. And that they were renewing my membership to Academia, and that paging would be free too view UNcensored!
    A child i was at 9, rebuilt an entire Porsche engine for a client of my father's. My father had a doctorate. and taught me critical thought at an early age....
    YOU must tell all your children what to think, what choice YOU give them to choose from, and how THEY are small minded and wouldn't understand....sorry for them*
    psychiatric medical care is a scam to push untested pharmaceuticals on small minded people, incapably ill and unaware that NONE OF PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS HAVE EVER BEEN TESTED TO SHOW THEY DO WHAT THEY (BIG PHARMA) CLAIMS THEY DO **PERIOD** NONE!
    research it on this site TITLE; "psychiatry's dirty little secret"
    I've said enough ... but am tired of all the WORLD DUMBING DOWN OUR CHILDREN.
    CmeL8r

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