Gerard Depardieu, the famous French actor-turned-Russian-citizen, hit Russian theaters on September 4 with a new movie whose producer says highlights the "extraordinary redevelopment" of Chechnya in Russia’s restive North Caucasus.
"Viktor," starring Depardieu and British actress Elizabeth Hurley, was shot in Moscow and Chechnya last year. It purports to be a revenge film with Depardieu, speaking English as a Frenchman, taking on the criminal underworld that killed his son.
The film has secured an apparent endorsement from Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who posted pictures on his widely followed Instagram last year with Hurley, Depardieu, and a kitten.
With the blessing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and government largesse from Moscow, Kadyrov has presided over the redevelopment of Chechnya following two devastating wars in the republic between Chechen separatists and Russian federal forces.
Kadyrov’s reign, however, has also been marked by numerous reports of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and extrajudicial killings and torture.
The trailer for "Viktor" features a lingerie-clad woman wielding a pistol, as well as multiple scenes of torture:
Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented 82 cases of torture in a 2006 mission by Kadyrov’s forces. A former bodyguard, Umar Israilov, has accused Kadyrov of personally torturing him and others by giving prisoners electric shocks or firing pistols at their feet.
Kadyrov, who has repeatedly denied such accusations, gave Depardieu the title of honorary citizen in May 2013 and keys to a five-room apartment on the 27th floor of an elite apartment building in Grozny.
Putin hand-delivered a Russian passport to Depardieu in January 2013 after the actor got into a public spat with French President Francois Hollande over a surtax on millionaires.
The French actor has registered to live in Saransk, Mordovia, about 650 kilometers east of Moscow.
-- Luke Johnson