Written by Graham Holford
“A stone should stay where it's thrown.”
There are many sayings that the elders use to explain the tradition of Ala kachuu, or take and flee, or as I knew it, bride kidnapping. It is a practice that is actually illegal in the Kyrgyz Republic, yet in rural areas, it is still employed as a means of marriage. The woman that are kidnapped face being shunned by their community if they refuse to get married to their kidnappers. They are left with very little choice.
The Kyrgyz Republic is still grappling with the post-Soviet era. There have been two revolutions since its independence in 1991 and things are still not stable. The focus on tradition seems to be how these rural communities function. What do you do if you can’t rely on your government? You look back. Ala Kachuu highlights this. As a viewer from the United Kingdom, I’m careful not to judge too harshly. My country has no constitution. All it has is tradition, hence having a monarchy as a head of state.
There are many accounts of women starting their lives as educated people with agency that are cut short by their kidnappers. Some accounts are really harrowing. Yet, Roser Corella’s Grab and Run does attempt to understand the tradition. Debates about it are held in classrooms. Victims, wives, divorcees talk openly about how they see it as a necessary practice for the community. Farmers explain that they would never be married if they didn’t kidnap their wives. It is mystifying at times, especially when one particular subject tells her story of her kidnapping, forced marriage and divorce yet still approves of the Ala Kachuu tradition.
This an example of how important documentary can be because Corella, for the most part, does navigate through these accounts and allows us to see how it's a genuinely complicated issue. The final sequence of film really highlights this. A husband and wife talk of her kidnapping. They get on well. They laugh together. He is self deprecating. We then cut to her kidnapping. She's in a flood of tears as she's held by two men. They laugh at her despair. What does one do with this? Do I now approve of Ala Kachuu? Of course not. But everything has its context and Grab and Run is one such story of context (for a seemingly unforgivable act). I appreciate that.