INTERVIEW: ALEXANDER ABATUROV

Your documentary is embedded into the Russian military as you filmed recruits training in a barrack in Siberia. But the hard, insensitive, emotionless military life is only a part of the story of your documentary that is more sentimental, it handle with sorrow, death, lack, family ties, friendship. Your story was inspired by your cousin’s death, Dima. The title THE SON is in honour of your uncles Dima’s parents I imagine.

Yes, I wanted to stress the most important aspect of the film with this title, that is family ties, sorrow, lacking.

 

You intertwine, connect two worlds very distant from one another. But maybe apparently because in the barrack daily life is a little bit as the family life. You had the opportunity to take a closer look at this hard military life during training.  What is your opinion about ties amond “brothers of arms”?

In the film there are two differen worlds. With the death of Dima they are mixed together. Normally children stay in the family and live their lives. The relationship in the army are very close because people share difficulties of the daily life, violence. They share the risk of dying and they take care of one another. Strong relations are built. That is why they call “brothers”, it is part of the military culture, a means to motivate recruits.

 

Only some of them only few will join the highly elite, the Spetsnaz, the Russian special forces. Can you tell us something about this military unit? How were you able to film within the Spetsnaz? I image they are very close and secretive just like any other military special forces around the world.

It is a very close universe, you know. You cannot go inside if you are a civilian. It was very exceptional that they let me in to spend some time with few of these recruits. They were very natural in front of the camera and confident. Spetsnaz literally means special forces. There are different special forces units within national special troops. Some of them operate in Caucasus region. “Red berrets” is not a unity, it is a special distinction for the elite, “the best of the best”.

 

Did you cousin Dima ever talk to you about his ambition of becoming a Spetsnaz?

It was not so. It was not a dream or an ambition. In Russia you have to go in the army, military service is compulsory. He decided not to skip as I did. He was phisically well-trained, he was athletic, a strong guy. As he had decided to do one year of military service he thought it was better to join a good military force. At the end he decided to stay. For him it was a temporary solution to earn some money. In Russia the army is an employer. , he wanted to quit as soon as possible. Many Russian guys from villages make this choice.

 

In your documentary we get no information about the setting, the places and what is going on in Dagestan or in North Caucasus, or where, to which destination soldiers are shipped off in the final scene of the documentary. You never took position about the political and social context against the backdrop and the same is for the young trainees that can be more surprising.

I didn’t want to analyse the context from a political point of view. It could elsewhere, in Syria for example. It is a very complicated and tricky situation even to explain. Very old conflicts are being manipulated by Islamists. It is a kind of frontier between Western and Eastern Europe, very close to Turkey, Syria. I didn’t think of a specific destination in the scene at the end when soldiers are shipped off.

 

Last question can I ask you how Duma’s parents are now? Have they accepted somehow Duma’s death?

They are struggling hard with the idea, the loss of their only son. They prefer to share this sorrow with families who lived the same experience.

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