Russia and US, Dreamscanner 2004
Color, 105 minutes
English and Russian (with English subtitles)
Director: Andrei Nekrasov
Cameramen: Aleksandr Petrovskii and Sergei Tsikhanovich
Editing: Andrei Nekrasov and Ol'ga Konskaia
Protagonists: Tatiana Morozova-White, Sasha and Abraham White, Elena and Liubov' Morozova, Svetlana Rozhkova, Mikhail Trepashkin, Lidia and Timur Dakhkilgov, Alexander Zdanovich, Vladimir Rushailo, and Vladimir Putin
Producers: Ol'ga Konskaia and Andrei Nekrasov
World Premier: Sundance Film Festival, 2004
Best Documentary Award: Karachi International Film Festival, 2005

Disbelief, a documentary film about the bombing of a Moscow apartment building on the night of 8-9 September 1999 takes the viewer on an intense and emotional journey in ten parts. Nekrasov and his crew follow Tania, her young son Sasha, and her lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin to Denver, Milwaukee, Washington, London, Moscow, and the Urals, in their investigation. The film begins innocently, with Sasha picking his nose. We are told simply that he and Tania "now live in America," and we learn that she had started a new life long before the horrific bombing that killed her mother, her sister Elena's boyfriend, and nearly 100 others. Vladimir Putin, at the time Prime Minister under President Boris El'tsin, released an official statement attributing the bombing to Chechen terrorists. Four days after that attack on 19 Gyryanova Ul., an apartment building on Kashirskoe Shosse was bombed, and on 16 September a truck bomb destroyed the facade of an apartment building in Volgodonsk. In September 1999 alone, almost 300 people were killed in apartment bombings in Russia.

As Disbelief unfolds, Nekrasov draws us gradually, and often blatantly, to his ultimate conclusion—that the Russian government sanctioned the bombing of the building and actually planned a similar "scare" attack in the city of Riazan. Every viewpoint in the film supports this theory except for one woman, the "White Russian," who blames Chechnya for the attack, and states: "peace  in the Caucuses has always been maintained by Russian bayonets." In one of the most emotional scenes of the documentary, a demolition crew destroys the remainder of the already bombed apartment building as Tania and her sister discuss their newly-changed lives. The hasty removal of all evidence by the secret service gives further credence to the suspicious activity of the government. Disbelief has been screened only a few times in Russia since its release, though Nekrasov has said in interviews that he has not met any serious resistance to showing the film there.

Tania asks her lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin: "Are you not afraid? By persisting in your investigations you are putting your own life on the line?" "I have a cause and I believe it is just," answers Trepashkin. "Even my own former colleagues from the FSB will testify that I've never deceived or betrayed anyone. So I am at peace with myself." These former colleagues later arrested Trepashkin in October of 2002 on the charge of illegal firearms possession for a gun that Trepashkin claims the FSB planted in his car. He was found guilty in the Moscow District Military court for illegal ammunition possession and for disclosing classified information without elements of treason, and was subsequently sentenced to four years in a non-prison penal settlement. When Trepashkin was arrested, Nekrasov made another documentary compiled from interviews the two did together; the master copy of this film was stolen from Nekrasov's briefcase.

Disbelief not only details the effects of terrorism across the nation, but tells the story of Tania's personal quest to define her relationship to her native country. For her there are two Russias: the Russia before 8 September 1999 that exists only in her heart, and the present-day Russia that may have had a role in the death of her mother. She is in a state of disbelief as she claims: "I would never believe people could do such a thing." When she visits the Dakhkilgovs, a Chechen couple accused of being involved in the bombing, she learns how deep the racism cuts through her country. It seems that the only protagonist not subsumed with horror and disbelief about the events and the current state of the nation is Sasha. The film's shocking images and strong emotions are juxtaposed with his natural, childish folly. Nevertheless, even with his American passport, Sasha is just as much a part of the events of 19 Gyrianova Ul. despite his unawareness of their consequences.

Andrei Nekrasov  

Andrei Nekrasov studied acting and directing at the State Institute for Theatre and Film in St. Petersburg and at the Bristol University School of Film. He received a Masters in Comparative Literature and Philosophy at the University of Paris. In 1985 he assisted Andrei Tarkovskii during the filming and editing of his last film, The Sacrifice. Nekrasov cites Tarkovskii as his main inspiration to become a filmmaker. After making documentaries for B.B.C., Nekrasov returned to Russia to make his first feature (Love is as Strong as Death, FIPRESCI Prize, 1997). Since then he has made several internationally co-produced documentaries, TV arts programs, and feature films. He has also written and directed several plays.


1989 - Raising the Curtain, TV documentary
1990 - Pasternak, TV documentary
1993 - Springing Lenin, short
1997 - Love is as Strong as Death, feature
2000 - Children's Stories: Chechnya, documentary
2001 - Love and Other Nightmares, feature
2004 - Disbelief, documentary

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