A Hot Interview with the Director of “Vasha (Brother)”
We share with you a special interview with Finnish director Hannu Salonen who is the director of Vasha (Brother).
WaYNaKH Online: How did you decide a movie which is a story of some Chechens in out of their homeland? We know you could create a similar scenario without Chechens, why the Chechens are main characters of your movie?
Hannu Salonen: The origins of the story go back at least fifteen years: at that time there was a car bomb explosion downtown Tallinn and some Chechens were suspected to be connected to that explosion. The writer Mart Kivastik took that as a basis for his original idea, which otherwise quite much differs from the film now, because I took over the story some years ago and wrote in for example the betrayal and the “Vashas” killing each others at the end. Now, basicly the film is supposed to be quite universal, so in that sense you could take any folk that has suffered from war and intolerance. In this very case the Chechens inspired me in a lot of ways: I myself come from Finland, which also fought its wars for its independence, so I think I could understand the Chechens’ yearning after freedom. In my opinion the Chechen war is one of the most tragic ones, because no voice at all has been risen by the western societies, although there practically was genocide being exercised on the Chechen people. So I guess, all this together made the Chechens to be the right background for the characters in my movie.
WaYNaKH Online: You said that you inspired from a car bombing, well the rest of story is true?
Hannu Salonen: The story is totally fictional, apart from the starting point with the car bomb explosion mentioned above. For me the subject matter, the basic question to be explored was how wars are being born, how they evolve to be like circles of demise and death. The question to me was, how it comes to the chain of revenge that only can be interrupted by somebody that ultimately refuses to be guided only by his emotions. The simpliest structure was to take 3 brothers that actually are supposed to be loyal to each others. At the end they are all dead. Why ? – this question is intriguing.
WaYNaKH Online: “Vasha” is a Chechen word, how did you decide to name of movie?
Hannu Salonen: We thought about this for a long time, until the film basicly gave itself a titel. The word “Vasha” was already in the screenplay several times, and ultimately the subject matter was brotherhood. So the titel appeared obvious after a while.
WaYNaKH Online: The image of Chechens are terrorist, murder etc something like that in the world media. One of the main character of movie who is selling women, drugs and killing people as a mafia. Why did you use this character?
Hannu Salonen: For the story to function we need different types of characters. One is man, who has lost his family and seeks the traitor, a lonely wolf type of man. The second is just a normal father of a family, now living in a western society as its fully accepted member. The third of the brothers is the “dark angel”. He is a “fallen son”, he does bad business, although we never mention the word mafia in any way. In my opinion these types are architypical, not specifically Chechen. I needed an antagonist and he should be morally corrupted, you find this type of men in every country.
WaYNaKH Online: What is your message in this movie?
Hannu Salonen: The movie is the message!
WaYNaKH Online: Why Turkish actors play in, why not Chechen actors?
Hannu Salonen: Chechens actors were almost impossible to get by. The actors that we found out about didn’t speak a word of english, which would have been necessary. Also in the financing countries we needed some back up in a form of known actors: in Germany in this case for example Mehmet Kurtulus. His being in the film made possible the financing. With a “no name” Chechen actor we never would have gotten the financing together – that is a sad fact, but it has to do with the “glamour” aspect of the world of movies.
WaYNaKH Online: Which countries did you released t$he movie? Do you have any plan or discussion to release it in Turkey?
Hannu Salonen: The movie has until now been released only in Estonia. Releases will follow in other countries as well, as soon as our world premiere on a bigger festival has become reality. A release in Turkey would be absolutely great, especially because we have three turkish actors (actually even 4, but he is being blown away in the beginning of the film!).
WaYNAKH Online: Did you participate to any movie competition? Have you got any invitation from festivals?
Hannu Salonen: We are currently applying for certain A-class festivals. Also the festival in Antalya would be just fascinating – especially, because I would come there with my turkish actors and enjoy it in a total different way! Smaller festivals we still have a plenty of time for, our major interest lies on getting into a competition on a good festival.
WaYNaKH Online: The Chechen Represant of legal Chechen Republic Ichkeria Government Imran Ahayev was your advisor, what was his opinion about this movie?
Hannu Salonen: Imran attended a major part of the shooting giving us advice about the language and the culture. Then he saw the film on the Estonian premiere – he and his whole family were very much touched by the film. He actually even told me, that in his wife’s family something similar really happened. Obviously he liked the film a lot – which made me happy, because it was so important for me to make the movie as authentic as it could get with turkish actors and a finnish director…;-)
WaYNaKH Online: What is the comments of Chechen people about the movie?
Hannu Salonen: Unluckily we couldn’t yet show the film to other Chechens apart from Imran Ahayev and his family. But I profoundly hope that I will experience that as well.
WaYNaKH Online: What do you think about the dirty war in Chechnya?
Hannu Salonen: Wars are always tragic, but especially the Chechen wars turned to be such, in a unimaginable dimension. The actual crime is that nobody in the west really cared – Chechnya was too far away from them and the geopolitical and economic interest weren’t really existent. That’s why I would call it a “forgotten war”.
WaYNaKH Online: Do you have any message to our readers?
Hannu Salonen: Watch this movie! We try to manage to get the film to you, which ever way, in a movie theater, on DVD, perhaps on TV. Feel free to write me about it – it took 8 years of my life to realize it!
WaYNaKH Online: Hannu, even you were busy with your new movie project, thank you very much allocated your time for our interview. We can say clearly as a group who watched your movie, well done, it was an amazing movie.
ps. Special thanks to Piret Tibbo Hudgins, the producer of movie from All Movie Company in Estonya for have send to movie us and provided opportunity to do an interview with Hannu Salonen.
Who is Hannu Salonen?
Hannu Salonen was born in Pori, Finnland in 1972. As he was 16, he founded an association in order to produce his amateur short films. After he’d spent a year in the US at the end of the golden 80’s and graduated from the Kallio High School for performing arts in Helsinki he got accepted to the Berlin Film Academy. Already in his youth Salonen spent much time learning chinese martial arts and spent even some time in China. 1997 he won in Belgium in the open European Championships gold in the disciplin „Nan Dao“ (Southern Saber) and bronze in „Nan Quan“ (Southern Fist). With his prize winning short film „Moments in Monochrome“ he smoothed the way to his first feature „Downhill City“ that won amongst others the prize for the Best Europen First Feature in Angers, France.
Since then Salonen has made over a dozen feature films, majority of them being „Tatort“-movies belonging to the famous feature film series being shown on every sunday in prime time on the german broadcasting station ARD, regularly receiving an audience between 6 – 10 millions. With the Chechen Drama „VASHA“ Salonen managed to make his second cinema feature, this time in english language.
Salonen is a proud father of two daughters. He resides at Lake Constance, Germany.