The Search (2014 film)

The Search is a 2014 French drama film written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and produced by Hazanavicius and Thomas Langmann. The film is a reiteration of the Oscar-winning post-Holocaust drama also called The Search,[4] directed by Fred Zinnemann, in which a compassionate westerner helps a lost child find what is left of his family amidst the chaotic flood of post-war civilian refugees. In the 1948 film, the backdrop is post-war Berlin; The Search (2014) takes place in the "front lines of the Russian invasion of Chechnya"[5] during the first year of the Second Chechen War (1999-2009).[6][7] The Search was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[8]

The Search
Film poster
Directed byMichel Hazanavicius
Written byMichel Hazanavicius
Produced byMichel Hazanavicius
Thomas Langmann
StarringBérénice Bejo
Annette Bening
CinematographyGuillaume Schiffman
Edited byAnne-Sophie Bion
Michel Hazanavicius
Music bySelim Azzazi
La Petite Reine
Worldview Entertainment
La Classe Américaine
Georgian Film Investment Group
Sarke Studio
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • 21 May 2014 (2014-05-21) (Cannes)
  • 26 November 2014 (2014-11-26) (France)
Running time
160 minutes
Box office$600,000[3]


The film begins and ends on 16 October 1999,[9] with 20-year-old Kolia, (Maksim Emelyanov), a Russian Army recruit, recording and narrating with a handheld video camera, as young, drunken Russian soldiers taunt, terrorize, and finally execute a civilian Chechen couple in front of their teenage daughter Raissa (Zukhra Duishvili).[10] Kolia's story is one of four personal narratives that unfold against the backdrop of the ruins of a village in Chechnya, the flood of civilian refugees from the village, and a family partially reunited. Kolia, a pot-smoking guitar player in Perm, 2300 kilometers from the Chechen border, is taken into custody for possession of drugs and drafted into army service. As a new recruit, he undergoes a brutal transformation from an innocent youth into a "dehumanized killing machine."[5] When Kolia's fellow soldiers, kill the Chechen couple, the couple's nine-year-old son, Hadji (Abdul Khalim Mamutsiev) hides and watches and when it is safe, he is able to carry his infant brother to relative safety. The trauma of his parents' death renders him mute. He is helped along the way to the refugee camp by other Chechen refugees and eventually, he is befriended by Carole (Bérénice Bejo), a French-born, Chechnya-based NGO worker. Carole, who works as a researcher and representative of the Human Rights Committee of the European Union, helps Hadji regain his ability to speak. Hadji's elder sister Raïssa searches for both brothers. Carol interviews Helen (Annette Bening), a Red Cross worker, and places hope in the International response to the Second Chechen War to the centuries-old struggle of the Chechen people.[11] Raissa, reunited with her baby brother, escapes once again from the village with the help of other Chechen refugees. She has to leave without Hadji, against her will, because of the Russian military forces' aerial bombing.[12] Raissa helps Helen at the International Red Cross orphanage. Both Helen and Carole are discouraged when the United Nations Commission of Human Rights report of April 2000 does not declare the situation in Chechnya a humanitarian disaster.[13][14][15][16][17] Carole delivers her report to the United Nations but soon realizes that not many of the participants are listening. With the help of Carole and Helen,[10] Hadji is reunited with his siblings. The film ends at the beginning, with Kolia's filming of the attack on Hadji's family.


  • Bérénice Bejo as Carole
  • Annette Bening as Helen
  • Maksim Emelyanov as Kolia
  • Abdul Khalim Mamutsiev as Hadji
  • Zukhra Duishvili as Raïssa
  • Lela Bagakashvili as Elina
  • Yuriy Tsurilo as The Colonel
  • Anton Dolgov as Soldier
  • Mamuka Matchitidze as Father
  • Rusudan Pareulidze as Mother


Much of the filming took place alongside the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia, depicting places like a village near Grozny, NGO offices in the city of Nazran in nearby Ingushetia, a federal subject of Russia that borders Chechnya, the city of Perm, Russia.[18][19] Film critic Justin Chang praised the work of set designer, Emile Ghigo, who used buildings, places, and geographical features in the "mountainous, battle-scarred landscape" of Georgia that were similar to those in Chechnya including buildings destroyed by bombs, army barracks and refugee camps.[5] McCarthy also cited Ghigo's contribution with his "well-chosen locations, the crowded city scenes, detention centers and army barracks reek with the feel, sounds and discomfort of humanity pressed into unnaturally tight quarters."[20]


Critics praised the work of Guillaume Schiffman,[5][20] the French cinematographer, who also worked with director Michel Hazanavicius on films such as The Artist.[21] McCarthy described how they used "muted but still sharply defined colors, as well as with what appear to be mostly handheld cameras, to achieve a somber yet vitally immediate look."[20]


On film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, critics gave The Search a rating of 21%, based on 19 reviews, with a weighted average score of 4.71/10.[22] On Metacritic, the film has a normalized score of 37 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[23] The Guardian journalist Peter Bradshaw argued that Hazanavicius' attempt at "Old Hollywood big-hearted sincerity" devolved from an earnest rejection of violence against all actors in a war, into naive sentimentality.[10] Bradshaw did commend Hazanavicius for reminding the west and the European Union of their lack of concern and inaction when Boris Yeltsin attacked Chechenya.[10] Chang also praised all the actors for turning "in fine work within fairly circumscribed parameters;" he described the production as "first-rate" and the sound work as excellent. However, he called the film a "grueling, lumbering, two-and-a-half-hour humanitarian tract that all but collapses under the weight of its own moral indignation" with an approach that was "ultimately hectoring" and "didactic."[5] The Globe and Mail critic Liam Lacey described the film as "long, unoriginal and heavy-handed", a direct opposite of Hazanavicius' Oscar-winning silent movie comedy, The Artist.[24] Critic Todd McCarthy observed that the Chechen faction to which the Russians were responding — referred to as rebels, terrorists or invaders elsewhere — are conspicuously absent from the film's mosaic. McCarthy remarked that, "it might have behooved [the film maker] to have everyday Chechens as well as the foreigners reference them, positively or negatively, to at least make them a presence and a factor in the tragedy."[20]

Other usesEdit

In 2015, a fictional sequence taken from the film was presented as a real video of a massacre taken by a Russian soldier during the 1999 Chechnya war. In 2022, the same fictional sequence was posted on social networks, this time supposedly as an example of a massacre committed by Ukrainian soldiers during the Chechen war (even though - paradoxically - the Ukrainian army never fought in Chechnya).[25]


  1. ^ "The Search". Cannes. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  2. ^ "The Search". TIFF. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. ^ "The Search (2014)". JPBox-Office. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  4. ^ Bosley Crowther (24 March 1948). "Film Review The Search (1948)". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Justin Chang (21 May 2014). "Cannes Film Review: 'The Search'". Variety. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Filming locations for The Search (1948)". IMDB.
  7. ^ ""The Search" : Michel Hazanavicius entame le tournage du successeur de "The Artist"". allocine. Retrieved 12 April 2014.
  8. ^ "2014 Official Selection: The Search Synopsis". Cannes. 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  9. ^ "Europe: Russians 'within sight' of Grozny". BBC News. 16 October 1999. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Peter Bradshaw (21 May 2014). "Cannes 2014 review: The Search - silence may be best policy on followup to The Artist". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  11. ^ World: Europe UN envoy meets Chechen refugees, BBC News, 18 November 1999
  12. ^ Russian Federation/Chechnya: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, 2005
  13. ^ "Commission on Human Rights Report on the Fifty-sixth Session (20 March - 28 April 2000)" (PDF). United Nations Commission on Human Rights. 28 April 2000. p. 578. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  14. ^ U.S. Response to Human Rights Commission Resolution on Chechnya (Statement issued by Harold Hongju Koh and Nancy Rubin in Geneva) Archived 6 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Department of State, 26 April 2000
  15. ^ 'Russia will pay for Chechnya', BBC News, 7 December 1999
  16. ^ UK condemns Chechnya ultimatum, BBC News, 7 December 1999
  17. ^ "Bush condemns US isolationism". BBC. 18 November 1999. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  18. ^ Gilligan, Emma (2010). Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the tragedy of civilians in war. Princeton University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-691-13079-8.
  19. ^ Information on the Chechen refugee situation in Ingushetia in the late 2000 Archived 2 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, University of California, 10 September 2000
  20. ^ a b c d Todd McCarthy (21 May 2014). "'The Search': Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  21. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (19 January 2011). "What Is This Artist Movie That's Winning All the Awards?". Time Magazine. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  22. ^ "The Search (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  23. ^ "The Search Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  24. ^ Liam Lacey (13 March 2015). "The Search: Hazanavicius depicts war drama via multiple lives". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  25. ^ Alexandre Capron, Les observateurs (15 March 2022). "Des images d'un soldat ukrainien exécutant un Tchétchène ? Non, une séquence d'un film français". (in French). Retrieved 15 March 2022.

External linksEdit