Hot Interview With the Director of Film: Ahmed – Almost 13
We conducted an interview with the director of film “Ahmed – Almost 13“, Ritchie Cavander-Cole. We spoke about his movie and Chechens.
Waynakh Online: Ritchie, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: My name is Ritchie Cavander-Cole and I am a 38year old Australian born documentary film-maker residing in Oslo, Norway. I grew up in Australia to migrant parents. My father was a seaman from New Zealand and my mother was from Fijian descent and worked as a nurse. After an unsuccessful sports career as a golf player, I started travelling and it was while living in London that I began working with children’s theatre. This experience led me on to film making and though the two have their differences, I picked up then some of the techniques that I use in directing today.
Waynakh Online: Did you know any Chechens before your project and if so, did this change your perception of them after you were finished?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: I had no experience of either the Chechen culture or people before I began making this film. I do however remember two images that made a deep impact on me. The first image was a picture taken in 1996 of Grozny by American war photographer James Natchwey. I will never forget the sheer power of that image that showed only the eyes of a young boy with a bombed out Grozny in the background. I was 22 then and I had no idea where Chechnya was and who the Chechen people were but that one image stuck and it immediately made me aware of the Chechen people’s plight.
I have always been a lover of high mountains. I remember very well the first images that I saw of the Caucasus mountains that gave me a sense of wanting to travel to Chechnya to see them first hand. I hope I will one day experience them.
Since getting to know some of the Chechen people here in Norway, I see similarities in the generous hospitality of Chechen culture that is similar to that of the people from the south Pacific region.
Waynakh Online: So what do you think about the war in Chechnya?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: My knowledge of the Russian-Chechen war is limited to books, films, pictures and the Chechen refugees as well as various Russian’s that I have come into contact here in Norway. My own opinion is that I think it is important that the Chechen people should be given the right to self-autonomy. It is important that there is a stop to discrimination of the Chechen people and their future generations.
Waynakh Online: How did you get the idea to make a movie on a Chechen refugee family?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: I remember that Ahmed immediately charmed me when I first met him. He had a curiosity for life that was different to all the kids I met in my neighbourhood. I saw the way he took care of his younger siblings and the way he helped others. Through him I got to know more about Chechnya. In Australia I grew up with the custom of my parents that was different to the custom of other Australian families. I saw this duality with Ahmed’s situation. He had to tackle being Chechen in Norway and it was a process that I wanted to document.
Waynakh Online: What is your message with the movie?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: I have tried to make a film that portrays the predicament of a refugee boy who is trying to find his identity. The film is more about Ahmed’s inner struggle of who he wants to become despite the fact that he already is gifted with being a hard working, responsible and practical teenager who is also artistically talented. Without giving too much away for your readers who may not have seen the film, I think the driving force in the narrative is the relationship between Ahmed and his father and how Ahmed is balancing his role as the family’s prodigal son and his role outside the family home.
Waynakh Online: What sort of comments and reviews have you received for the film so far?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: The response has been very positive. People comment always on the way Ahmed carries himself throughout the film and his reflections on both his family and who he is. Both children and adults experience Ahmed as proactive young man and they ask if he is still drawing or has a part time job. They also wonder if the family will now return to Chechnya. They also ask a lot of questions about Ahmed’s father and if I have thought about making a film on him too.
Waynakh Online: What countries has the film been released in? Are there any other festivals where the film is being screened?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: The film had it’s world premiere at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (Idfa) in November last year. Since then it has been screened at film festivals in Norway, Iceland and Poland. The Norwegian Film Institute is working hard to have it screened in other festivals around the world. I really hope that the film can reach other Chechens who are living in different parts of the world.
Waynakh Online: And finally, do you have any message to our readers?
Ritchie Cavander-Cole: I think the Waynakh Online website is at the forefront of providing news, information and updates about the Chechen culture. Living so far away from home myself, I know that this website is a very important resource not only for fellow Chechens, but for people like myself who would like to know more about Chechnya. I hope that there are many who are interested in viewing “Ahmed – Almost 13” and welcome your comments and feedback.
Waynakh Online: Ritchie, thank you very much for sparing your time for our interview.