Chechen Leader Is A Hero Or A Villain Depending On The Movie

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Ramzan Kadyrov says he will soon star in a Hollywood-style action movie. At the same time, an opposition group released a movie detailing his alleged human rights violations.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The leader of the Russian Republic of Chechnya claims that he'll soon star in a Hollywood-style action movie. He's already the central figure in another film, a documentary accusing him of human rights abuses. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Ramzan Kadyrov is no stranger to real violence. He grew up during Russia's two wars in Chechnya, and he came to power after his father was assassinated. Now 38, he's a protege of Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Kadyrov rules Chechnya with an iron fist, but he has a well-known soft spot for movies and movie stars. He's hobnobbed with French actor Gerard Depardieu and action movie figure Steven Seagal. It was probably just a matter of time before Kadyrov got the drama bug.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLINTOFF: He announced on his Instagram page that he'll play the hero in a film to be called "Whoever Doesn't Understand Will Get It." Kadyrov posted a trailer for the movie in which he's shown running across a mountain valley followed by a fleet of camouflage-painted SUVs. He's draped with ammunition belts and fires a heavy machine gun into the air. Kadyrov says on Instagram that the director of the movie is, quote, "the author of famous Hollywood films," but he declines to say who that might be. Kadyrov's announcement came just as another film was being released, a documentary called "The Family" about Kadyrov's regime in Chechnya.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE FAMILY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: It's produced by Open Russia, an opposition group funded by tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in Russian prisons on what his supporters say were politically motivated charges.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE FAMILY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: The documentary opens with Kadyrov at a rally pledging himself and his fighters to be Vladimir Putin's personal special operations team.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE FAMILY")

RAMZAN KADYROV: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: Although Kadyrov has received billions of dollars from the Russian Treasury to rebuild Chechnya, the report alleges that he's really only rebuilt one street named in honor of Putin. The film accuses Kadyrov of embezzlement, extortion, torture and murder.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE FAMILY")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Russian).

FLINTOFF: The Open Russia documentary is, in its way, as heavy-handed as Kadyrov's planned action film. Footage of Kadyrov is often drenched in a red filter with a soundtrack reminiscent of a hatchet murder horror movie. Whether he's portrayed as a hero or a monster, his image has become larger than life. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.