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Review: Zelim’s Confession (2013)

Directed by: Natalia Mikhaylova | 60 minutes | biography,

In “Zelim’s Confession,” young Zelim tells of what a terrible thing happened to him. The corruption of the authority in the North Caucasus caused a dark period in the life of the then 20-year-old boy. One day Zelim is taken by the police for no reason. They force him to confess to a terrorist attack he never committed. Despite five days of severe physical and psychological abuse, he gives in to nothing. Because he is still threatened afterwards, he flees to Oslo, where he tries to start a new life. It soon becomes clear that he has not yet found his place.

The director accompanies him on his journey through Oslo. Despite his constant smile, it becomes painfully clear how much this has had on him. He no longer sleeps, or only sleeps for a few hours, has nightmares, and telling his story seems to take a lot of effort. Despite the fact that he is silent a lot, the event does not seem to be out of his mind for a moment. He makes strange remarks at unexpected moments, such as: “I’m not being tortured, am I?” When he gets on a boat.

The fact that he is more suspicious than the average young man in his twenties is already beautifully shown in the first scene. The opens with a shot of him on the tram, in which he asks the director if his words will be twisted. That is apparently the experience he has had up to that time. His confidence in the sincerity of man seems to have disappeared completely.

“Zelim’s Confession” is made up of five parts and each part consists of a statement from a different day. The images in Oslo are interspersed with images of his who are still in the refugee camp in Chechnya where Zelim grew up. They too are still scared every day and are constantly trying to find a way to be reunited again. They watch the images of Zelim in Oslo and his family’s reaction is also part of this documentary. This shows how involved the maker is in the situation. She has traveled to his to show what she is up to and to hear their side of the story.

Despite his obvious fears, Zelim comes across as a very strong person. Even when he almost faces death, he refuses to lose his innocence by confessing to what he did not do. Unfortunately, Zelim is most likely not the only one who has experienced this. The police make money when they find a perpetrator of a crime. They go so far as to take innocent people off the street and torture them until they give in. Unfortunately, most young people see no other option than that, so the police can continue with this.

“Zelim’s Confession” shows how unfair existence can be. In addition, it also becomes clear how important it is to stand out for the truth. Nothing is more important to Zelim than that. He has never held a gun and refuses to admit such a thing. Yet it is particularly poignant that he has had to flee and has no choice but to rebuild his whole life. And situations like this probably still occur in his home country. Hopefully, this will lead to a new investigation into the authority’s malpractice in Chechnya.

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