The real story behind the movie can be traced back to May last year when Russian scientist Maxim Shugaley and his translator Samer Sueifan arrived in Libya to conduct a social study. In the course of their research, they revealed secret information. To prevent the info from gaining further traction, Libyan authorities kidnapped the two and imprisoned them in Tripoli. The plot of the Shugaley movie retells these dramatic events while also bringing to life the incredible bravery of Russian sociologists.
The director of the movie Denis Neimand underlined that his main task was to tell a real story of real heroes: “‘The movie is based on the true story’ – in our case it is not a figure of speech, this is the pure truth. Shugaley, in my opinion, is a canonical story about a martyr who does not give up, about a man who is eager to stand up, to protect his world. Together with a talented actor Kirill Polukhin, we were trying to recreate precisely that image of a main character,” Neimand noted in his interview with Free West Media.
Alexander Kondakov, an executive producer of the movie, believes that the Shugaley is a unique phenomenon for the film industry. “After the movie had been released, a completely new genre was born. There are more than enough films which are created on true stories, but all of them were produced after the events took place, sometimes several decades later. The story we have shown reveals a topic that is relevant here and now: while viewers follow the adventures of the heroes on TV screens, their real prototypes stay behind bars in one of the most cruel Libyan prisons,” Kondakov reckons.
Marina Alexandrova, a journalist and film reviewer, believes that in our days biographical cinema is no longer being produced after the events have taken place – now it is being done from the very epicenter of someone’s life: “Nowadays, fiction films are beginning to put fingers into the pie of the documentary-journalistic movie. Moreover, it can become an action, a shout into a megaphone, the last chance to change something. Denis Neimand’s Shugaley is just precisely such a film-action, in fact – [it is] a virtual rally to which all potential viewers are invited.”
The recently released Shugaley movie has piqued the interest of many countries regarding the acute problem, the film critic and historian Valery Fomin confirmed. “The documentary Shugaley can stimulate more dynamic actions to solve an important problem. A similar thing had already happened in the history of Russian cinema – let’s recall the reaction of the world’s society to Soviet military newsreel. This chronicle became the unique video proof of the Nazis. Of course, Western media wrote about atrocities of fascism before the Soviet documentaries, but thanks to that newsreel, they began to show it firsthand. Therefore, I think that in the near future we can expect a whole series of films similar to Shugaley about the fight against terrorist arbitrariness,” Fomin underlined.
Speaking about the actual reaction to the Shugaley movie, it was already evidenced, and in a very peculiar way. After the premiere on the Russian NTV channel, the movie Shugaley was shown by the Libyan channel Jamahiriya. The very next day, representatives of the Interior Ministry of the Libyan Government of the National Accord (GNA) abducted Redhi Kurkaba, a head of the Libyan General Department of the Public Sector Financial Supervision.
The thing is that Kurkab happens to look almost identical to an actor who played in Shugaley. This character transmitted information about the bank cards of the head of the GNA Fayez Sarraj to Maxim Shugaley and Samer Sueifan. Moreover, Redhi Kurkaba even occupies a post similar to the character of the movie.
According to the representative of the Eastern Government of Libya in the Russian Federation Stanislav Kudryashov, the GNA authorities will do everything in an attempt to hide their crimes, not shying away from abductions and murders of people who possess even small bits of information: “The incident with Redhi Kurkab speaks of the vigorous reaction which the Shugaley has provoked among officials sitting in the GNA. The reason is clear: this movie very reliably conveys everything that is happening in Libya under the leadership of the Government of National Accord. Many facts about the illegal activities of the structures supporting Sarraj will become evident over time, and the international community will not be able to turn a blind eye to this.”
Likewise, the creators of Shugaley noted that for them it was important to show the audience how things really are in terms of the terrorist situation in the twenty-first century. Libya is a state dominated by dangerous militant groups, but recognized by the UN. Meanwhile, this status opens up opportunities for countries to officially purchase weapons, conduct laboratory activities, and carry out air travel – in essence, it presents a real threat to international security.