|5:30 p.m.||The Making of a New Empire|
Jos de Putter (The Netherlands, 1999)
"Larger than life" and "stranger than fiction" are often used to describe documentary subjects, but Chechen underworld figure turned politician Khozh-Ahmed Noukhaev deserves such superlatives, as Jos de Putter's documentary makes perfectly clear. Dapperly clad in all-black suits and a well-trimmed beard, Noukhaev steps out of luxury limousines and through the bullet-marked rubble and derelict streets of his native Chechnya, giving hope and passing out crisp $100 bills to villagers for "little problems." An ex- (or possibly current) mafia overlord, Noukhaev has abandoned crime for more lucrative pastures: politics, as he attempts to spearhead his people's independence movement, and business, as he aims to corral the region's astounding oil wealth. De Putter places Noukhaev within the context of the history and politics of modern Chechnya, but lets his images, and his matinee-idol-like hero, speak for themselves. For the Toronto Film Festival, The Making of a New Empire "is an absolutely foreign and exotic world brought close to us by a sensitive and provocative filmmaking team."
• Written by de Putter. Photographed by Andrzej Adamczak. (98 mins, In Russian and Chechen with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From JURA Films)