The Son

Directed by Alexander Abaturov

70 minutes / Color
Russian / English subtitles
Release: 2022
Copyright: 2018

“We are going to war! We are going to kill!” —Russian special forces soldier

In 2013, filmmaker Alexander Abaturov's cousin Dima Ilukhin was killed during a Russian Special Forces (Spetsnaz) operation in the Republic of Dagestan. He was 21. The fighter who shot him in the head and was himself subsequently killed is believed to have taken up arms after the death of his own son.

In THE SON, Abaturov alternates between Dima’s devastated parents and a group of young recruits as they undergo arduous training to join the Spetsnaz themselves—prepared to kill and die for a homeland they have pledged to love unconditionally.

We see the young soldiers, with their shaved heads and identical outfits, as they crawl through mud, spar until they are bloodied. Meanwhile, Dima’s mother and father—she shattered and teary, he equally damaged but silent and brooding—hold memorials, commission a sculpture in his honor, and visit his grave.

It’s a story as old as time: the fresh-faced soldiers going off to war, and the pain and emptiness that affect those they leave behind. A timely film that offers rare scenes of life inside the Russian military, THE SON brilliantly captures both sides to this story.

“Allows the filmmaker to demonstrate a keen sense of the frame and the rhythm of the editing, while paying a beautiful tribute to his deceased cousin.” —Cineuropa

“A mind-blowing dive into the world of the Russian army. No comments, just amazing images for a lesson in darkness.” —L'Obs

“A vibrant documentary of humanity.” —Télérama

“A film that is both intimate and universal.” —La Vie

“Starkly and expertly shot footage.” —One Room with a View

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Select Accolades

  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2022
  • Golden Tree Award, Golden Tree Documentary Film Festival 2018
  • Berlinale - Forum 2018
  • Cinéma du Réel 2018
  • Frames of Representation UK 2018
  • Human Rights Film Festival Switzerland 2018
  • Artdocfest 2018


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