In the aftermath of two wars, Chechnya is haunted by memories of great desolation and turmoil. But today, it's become a visiting ground for celebrities. A bustling haven for growing infrastructure, and home to one of the largest mosques in Russia. The documentary Chechnya: Republic of Contrasts addresses this dichotomy. Throughout the film, we witness a Chechnyan Republic in search of a new identity in the 21st century, but determined to remain grounded in the traditions on which it was founded.
In the midst of what was once a region of great conflict and ruins, a five-star hotel plays host to internationally-known figures like action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Creative expression is indulged in a state-of-the-art music recording studio. Dancers dutifully rehearse their routines for an upcoming festival. The Firdaws fashion house offers extravagant evening gowns and wedding dresses, and gains the attention of upscale female clientele from around the world.
Each of these enterprises remain seeped in the values and religious customs of the Chechnyan people. In accordance with Islamic faith, the dancers are not permitted to touch or look into the eyes of their partners. Adorned by elaborate headwear, the fashions are encrusted with valuable stones made of diamonds, silver and gold, and serve as clever hybrids between the traditional and modern.
Beneath this glitzy facade lies a more subdued and somber reality. We see swarms of students who devote their young lives to a rigorous study of the Quran, and hear one of these children warn non-believers of their assured path to Hell.
Chechnya: Republic of Contrasts beautifully intercuts between these two divides in order to illustrate a region in transition.