My thoughts for Three Days in September are endless. I am very emotional about it. I feel so much sorrow and pain for those who lived in the town of some 34,000 people. Such terror should not happen to anyone. Julia did a wonderful job speaking. I know in her heart she had to be emotional about reading for this. Those others that were included in the speaking should be commended for their bravery for they all went through a hell of a battle that not one person in the entire world should have to go through. God Bless them and their families and all of the others. I am wondering if the school has been redone? Are there children attending there now?
Beslan: Three Days in September
Beslan: Three Days in September
Keywords: found footageterrorismwitness to a crime
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In September 2004, Chechen rebels occupied a school in the small Russian city of Beslan, taking some 1,200 people-most of them children-hostage. At the end of three days, over 330 were dead.
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My Thoughts-Three Days in September
A powerful but somewhat one-sided look at the human cost of terrorism
This documentary is a heart-rending look at the damage caused by the September 2004 attack on School No. 1 in Beslan, in North Ossetia, Russia. For three days, 1 Sept to 3 Sept, Chechnyan rebels took hostage over 1200 school children and parents in their own school. The standoff ended with a massive shoot out with Russian Spetsnaz troops and militia which ended up killing 331 hostages, including over 170 children.
The documentary is a very emotional and powerful look at the impact of the incident on the town and populace of Beslan. It consists of a series of interviews with survivors, relatives of hostages, onlookers, Russian soldiers, and even the primary negotiator between the Russian government and the hostage takers, as well as a lot of primary video sources, taken from cameras of both hostages, onlookers outside the school, and most eerily, the Chechnyan hostage takers themselves. The focus is on the stories of the hostages inside the school, mostly adult hostages who had children among the hostages. The interviews are powerful--the interviewees express a lot of pain and emotion, but in a very tasteful way. There is intentional tugging of heartstrings by the filmmakers and the narration (done by Julia Roberts),when the subject could stand alone. But overall, the documentary succeeds at what it seems to be intended at--memorializing the dead and injured hostages.
My larger problem with the film is that I feel what it intends at isn't sufficient--it's a bit one-sided. While it strongly displays the physical and mental pain and torture that resulted from the hostage situation, it doesn't do a lot to give context to the event. Even for the most informed of Americans, the Beslan hostage crisis we saw only in the news--giving the human story is necessary. But for the unfortunate, uninformed majority of Americans, knowing the context of the situation is more important to developing an understanding of what happened. It mentions only briefly the war in Chechnya, and certainly doesn't examine the atrocities that the Russian army has committed against Chechnyan civilians. Although by no means do I want to justify the actions of the hostage takers, failing to understand in detail what motivated them to go to such extremes is absolutely vital. The filmmakers don't go to many lengths to examine the perpetrators of this crime, even mistaking the fact that many of the hostage takers were not in fact Chechnyan. (Many were radical Muslims of other nationalities.) Toward the end, they air without contradiction the assertion of a survivor that the hostage takers are less than human, animals, beyond reason and emotion. Of course, this avoids the serious question that mass terrorism raises--what is it that allows reasoning and emotional humans to put aside all that in order to kill on such a huge level? Asserting that the hostage takers weren't human doesn't advance our understanding of the Beslan attacks, the war in Chechnya, or terrorism at large.
Lastly, in its haste to show the pain of the Russian victims and demonize the criminals, the film also minimizes the most controversial questions about Beslan, namely, the questions about the Russian government during the siege. The concept is mentioned only in passing, and for the most part the Russian troops are portrayed as competent, self-sacrificing servants of the people. The most controversial moment during the siege was the moment on the third day when an explosion rocked the school, precipitating the actual shoot-out which resulted in most of the casualties. The cause of that explanation is subject to a lot of debate in Russia and internationally--many people believe that a Russian army sharpshooter shot one of the hostage takers who was standing on a trigger to a bomb, designed to explode precisely if the subject is killed. The movie doesn't even ask the question what caused the explosion, even though it was the event which brought the disaster to its final bloody culmination.
Overall this film is a powerful memorialization of the victims of the Beslan school hostage crisis. However, most of the world understands that terrorism is horrible. This documentary may act as an introduction to a discussion of the Beslan crisis, but it is too narrow and one-sided in scope to stand alone in its coverage.
Terrorism and incompetence make for a deadly cocktail
"Beslan: Three Days in September" (2006 release; 79 min.) is a documentary about the attack by Chechen terrorists on a school in Beslan, Russia, and the response to those attacks by the Russian authorities. As the movie opens, we are told that it is "September 1, 2004", as Beslan's School No. 1 celebrates the start of a new school year. Hundreds of kids grades 1 through 11, along with parents and friends, are gathering. In parallel, we see a group of Chechen terrorists, 30 men and 2 women, getting ready to drive in from the woods, and beforewe know it, they have taken over 1,200 hostages, packed like sardines in the school's gym... At this point we are 10 min. into the documentary.
Couple of comments: this documentary is directed by Joe Halderman, best known for his TV work on shows like "48 Hrs.". As it is explained to us, the film makers struck gold when archive footage is unearthed that the terrorists themselves filmed on video during those three days and the video camera was found after the conclusion of those 3 days by kids. Sometimes if is difficult to distinguish the intrinsic merit and value of a film or documentary as opposed to the subject matter of the film or documentary. In this case, though, I can state unequivocally that the documentary is well done, while at the same time it is just appalling to see the ruthlessness of the terrorists AND the parallel incompetence of the Russian authorities to respond to the hostage crisis. It absolutely blows the mind. When the situation comes to its devastating conclusion on Day 3 (by which time there is ample press coverage and hence ample archive video footage),you can't but shake your head in contempt and disgust. Julia Roberts narrates, and along the way the film makers interview a slew of people involved, in particular family members that were directly affected in one way or another.
"Beslan: Three Days in September" is not a new release obviously. I happen to stumble upon it on Showtime On Demand the other night. Glad I did. Ideally this documentary would receive an updated release with a "Where are they now" segment added at the end. In any event, I encourage you to check this out if you get a chance, and draw your own conclusion.