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25 Feb, 2013 11:33

Depardieu eyes making ‘big film’ in Russia’s Chechen Republic

Depardieu eyes making ‘big film’ in Russia’s Chechen Republic

French film star Gerard Depardieu – who fled his country over a tax scandal and was offered citizenship in Russia - announced he plans to make a movie in Chechnya after dancing and feasting with the republic’s leader.

The day after the French film legend was officially registered as a resident of the previously little-known Russian town of Saransk in the republic of Mordovia, Depardieu flew to the Russian Republic of Chechnya.

Right at the steps of his personal plane, the star best known for his role as ‘Obelix’, was met with open arms by the Russian republic’s head Ramzan Kadyrov. The ‘welcome’ party was later organized in Kadyrov’s residence in a traditional Caucasian way: tables laden with food, music and dancers. After enjoying the meal, Depardieu joined in during a traditional Caucasian dance with a woman dressed in a Chechen national dress. 

Apparently, impressed by such hospitality, the French star stated that he intends to make “a big film” in the capital Grozny “just to show that it is possible to do it here”. He refused to provide any further details, but promised that “it was just a beginning” and vowed to come back to the republic again. 

I’m sure that happy people live here. One has to be really happy to sing and dance the way Chechens do it,” Depardieu said.

At the same time, he admitted that he knows little about the Russian republic that is considered to be rather a “complicated region.” The 64-year-old actor noted though that several years ago he saw photos of ruined Grozny and was surprised to discover that it was rebuilt “and turned into a beautiful and modern” city in such a short period of time.

Depardieu said he’s a Paris Saint-Germain fan, but will back FC Terek Grozny (Image from official FC Terek's twitter page @fcterek)

Meanwhile, a five-bedroom-apartment which was generously granted to Depardieu in addition to the status of “Chechen’s honorable resident” has sparked a wave of jibes on the Russian internet.

That’s our centuries-long worship of foreigners,” user dukinsky48 observed, commenting on the news on Echo Moskvy radio station site. Many users were particularly displeased with the move as the large apartment, they claim, “was bought with Russian taxpayers’ money.” Others suggest that the Chechen government should have given that flat to a large family, as Depardieu can easily afford to buy property. 

Kadyrov even had to respond to critics via one of popular social networking services. He observed that Chechnya is a nation “famous for its hospitality” and added that he felt bad “when some of us put mercantile interests” above everything. 

And Depardieu has already come up with a design idea for his brand-new apartment in ‘Grozny-city’. 

I want it to be Art Nuevo. I want my flat to have a lot of free space,” he told journalists on Monday. ‘Asterix’ series star plans to stay in the flat next time he comes to Chechnya. 

Depardieu is one of the most popular French actors in Russia, a relationship that led the star to receive a Russian passport in early January.

The move came after a scandal over a newly-planned French 75 per cent tax rate for incomes above US$ 1.3 million. In Russia the income tax is the same for everyone and accounts for only 13 per cent. The actor denied any connection between his decision and the tax, claiming that despite his new passport he was still very much French.

In Russia, the star’s decision to move has seen prominent leaders in politics and sport seeking fighting to cash in on Depardieu’s. He has been invited to represent the republic of Mordovia in FIFA. The Russian Communist Party has offered the actor a membership card, while street opposition’s activist Sergey Udaltsov said they would be glad to see him at next protest rally in spring. 

Depardieu’s moment in the Russian spotlight has also seen a backlash online, with much attention centered on his personality, which, critics say, is reminiscent of the Soviet era. Back then, foreign (particularly western) artists, sportsmen and political activists – who supported Marxist-Leninist ideas – were considered ‘friends of the USSR’ and granted various honors in the country.