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Homegrown Chechen Soap Opera Hits The Screen In Grozny

The first-ever Chechen soap opera, a low-budget series tailored to family viewing titled Call Of The Heart, has premiered in Grozny.
The first-ever Chechen soap opera, a low-budget series tailored to family viewing titled Call Of The Heart, has premiered in Grozny.

A rich bachelor and a poor villager vying for the affections of the same woman sounds like the stuff of a classic soap opera.

But Call Of The Heart is no ordinary television series. It's the first-ever Chechen-language soap opera to be produced in Russia's North Caucasus republic.

It premiered on August 18 in the Chechen capital, Grozny, where audiences were treated to an abridged version. It is expected to be serialized and aired on local television.

The series is a milestone for viewing in Chechnya, where the arts and entertainment business is recovering after years of war. Several feature films have been produced in Chechnya, but Call Of The Heart is the first locally-made series.

The premier was met with little fanfare, though, perhaps dented by a 24-hour delay after lighting issues. Locals did pour into the cinema to see the screening. But big names from the Russian entertainment business who were expected to show up did not make the event.

The soap opera had received little funding. Most of the actors were amateurs, with many chosen off the street, and they reportedly were not paid for their time.

Before the series was screened, director Beslan Terekbaev tamped down expectations. "This is certainly not Pirates Of The Caribbean," he told the audience. "But we have done everything to make you happy. In the future, we will be even better."

The TV series is a departure from the violence and sex that dominate the foreign series that have been immensely popular in Russia over the years.

Call Of The Heart is said to be tailor-made for Chechen families. There is little violence, and there are no love scenes. Women are veiled and dressed conservatively. The producers are reportedly keen on exporting the series to the culturally and religiously conservative Middle East.

Moscow-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has made strict public adherence to Islam a feature of his presidency.

Still, the series' plot line follows a tumultuous love triangle involving two men competing for the love of the same woman. There is also a mysterious subplot involving a Chechen teacher who worked in the United States.

Written by Frud Bezhan based on reporting by Ahmad Sultanov

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