In Empty Land, Promised Land, Forbidden Land photographer Rob Hornstra and writer Arnold van Bruggen explore the unknown country Abkhazia on the Black Sea. Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after a short, violent civil war in '92-'93 and was recognised as independent in 2008 by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and the atoll of Nauru. Hornstra and Van Bruggen spent the last four years travelling through the country, seeing how it is slowly trying to claw its way out of isolation. They visited the refugees in Georgia and described the attempts made by the Abkhazian government to repopulate the empty, war-ravaged countrywith new immigrants.
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In 2014, the Olympic Games will take place in Sochi, Russia. Never before have the Olympic Games been held in a region that contrasts more strongly with the glamour of the Games than Sochi. Just 20 kilometres away is the conflict zone Abkhazia. To the east the Caucasus Mountains stretch into obscure and impoverished breakaway republics such as Cherkessia, North Ossetia and Chechnya. On the coast old Soviet sanatoria stand shoulder to shoulder with the most expensive hotels and clubs of the Russian Riviera.
Between now and 2014 the area around Sochi will change beyond recognition. The extreme makeover is already underway; refugee flats and poverty-stricken resorts are disappearing at high speed from the partly fashionable, partly impoverished seaside resort of Sochi. Thousands of labourers from across Russia and abroad live in prefab accommodation in order to have the stadiums, hotels and modern infrastructure finished on time. Helicopters fly backwards and forwards with building materials. The economic crisis is glossed over as much as possible.
Photographer Rob Hornstra and writer/filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen plan to document the changes in the area around Sochi over the coming five years. The Sochi Project will be a dynamic mix of documentary photography, film and reportage about a world in flux; a world full of different realities within a small but extraordinary geographic area.
The Sochi Project is a unique, in-depth and as such a costly project. Dutch newspapers and magazines are unable to undertake or afford a project of this scale. We think it is important that independent, documentary journalism continues to exist. That’s why we are doing it ourselves. You can make your own contribution,by becoming a donor of The Sochi Project.
INTERVIEW ROB HORNSTRA 2010 from dutchdoc on Vimeo.