Children of Beslan is a telling documentary by the BBC that explores the Beslan School Hostage Crisis as seen through the eyes of children who were held in that sweltering gym for 3 days with no food or water while Chechen extremists rigged the room with explosives and held guns to their heads. The heartbreaking interviews also uncover the devastating impact this violence had on the children and the town as a whole.
From the first moments of the siege, when children heard gunfire and thought it was the sound of popping balloons, through the horrors of being packed in the overheated gymnasium for 57 hours, to the bloody conclusion of the siege with desperate hostages scrambling over the bodies of their friends in search of safety as bombs suspended from ceilings and taped to walls went off and thousands of bullets flew around them, the confessions of Children of Beslan offer shocking account of terrorists robbing them not only of their family and friends, but also of their innocence.
When one of them explains how they’re not the same funny kids they used to be anymore, how they’re all serious now, like grownups and how they don’t fight the way the kids do – that’s when the real toll of the hostage crisis becomes really evident. The scars that are not visible are left by wounds that hurt the most. This dark shadow will loom over their lives and hunt them for as long as they’re alive.
The town of Beslan is not the same anymore either. Surviving children now study at another school, but parents often accompanying them to school in fear that the terrorists would return. Once cheerful, the people of Beslan hardly celebrate anymore and many hardly come out to socialize like they used to.
It was also cute to hear the children imagining their childhood heroes to come and rescue them. While being held hostage, many children hoped for Harry Potter, a Terminator, or an Iron Man to show up, kill all the terrorists and triumphaly save them all. Children are more likely to embrace that which they see in movies as reality and expect the same to happen in real life.
I’m not entirely convinced it was a good idea on behalf of the documentary makers to take some of the children back to the place where they had spent 3 days of unspeakable terror to relive it for the movie. There is a lot of understandable anger in all of them, which I fear may have a very negative impact on their future lives. The boy who climbs into the loft with an automatic rifle, or the girl who burns a picture of terrorists every day talked as if the sole purpose of the rest of their existence was to take revenge. This could create a vicious circle of both sides constantly plotting to take revenge, leaving the ever growing number of innocent children caught in the crossfire for ever.