“SUFFERING ALONE IS PAINFUL, BUT AS A TEAM IT IS FUN”
BY IMPANA KULKARNI
“Sports is similar to dance. We train our bodies vigorously and in that find a way to express. It is where I can vent out all the emotion inside me, and brings me peace of mind,” says 29 year old Russian- American Ramazan Nanayev, who is at the 50th anniversary International Film festival of India to showcase his debut, Roads to Olympia. The handsome young writer, producer and director told The Peacock, “I want to tell the story of the struggles and problems faced by people who aspire to get to the Olympics.”
Nanayev is Circassian (also known as Adyghe), one of the ancient indigenous peoples of the Caucasus, but his family migrated to the USA when he was a teenager . There, he became a competitive athlete, “In school I realized I am quite good at a number of events, and decided to try decathlon. I competed in it for 2 years.”
Due to the lack of proper documents however, he couldn’t accept a scholarship for college, since “I had to drop out of
school to make ends meet, and couldn’t apply for any further competitions. It was a difficult time, I couldn’t train well either, was mentally shaken. I had really wanted to compete at the Olympics.”
Nanayev’s passion for sport, and the problems he had encountered, made him want to share his story with everyone. At 22, he learnt to operate a camera, got together a team of 258 people from Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and back home in the USA, and over the course of the next five years proceeded to write and direct a movie that delved deep into the varieties of cultural oppression, intolerance and poverty that athletes sometimes face.
“Suffering alone is painful, but as a team it is fun” says Nanayev, recounting various incidents from his shoots. “We recreated the Russian sequences in New York itself. For one scene, I had to drive fast through city traffic, even while directing through the rearview mirror, with the cameraman beside me and the sound recordist in the trunk! Another time – in Brazil – our van was stopped by gunmen demanding money, and we only escaped because we had a local on board who managed to handle the situation.”
Nanayev has many other interesting stories in mind to bring to the screen, “The second one I want to make is about how disability is wrongly perceived in our culture, and how these people are unfairly marginalized.” His concerns led him to join the Global Shapers, which is part of the World Economic Forum. When asked if he would like to participate in the next Olympics, he told us, “I am now a social entrepreneur. Running for the decathlon was all about me. Now I want to help people, empower more youngsters like me.”
He also dreams of making a film about his people from Caucasus. “Our ancestors fought the war against the Russian conquest and paved the way for my generation to be able to get opportunities. I must tell their story because those are my roots and what made me.”
Roads to Olympia screens today at Inox Screen 3 at 8.15 am.
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 8 (2019) here: