The Wagner Group is normally in the news for all the wrong reasons, but for the second time this year, a film by the production company Aurum is depicting the Russian mercs in a totally different light, as “Russians saving Africans”. The new film titled “Granit” is slated for release in Russia on January 4.

While showing Russian mercenaries as heroic defenders of Africans may stretch the limits of believability given Wagner’s record of human rights abuses stretching from Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Ukraine, and Mozambique, the production company is non-plussed and has set the film for release on the government-friendly NTV channel on Tuesday. 

And no wonder. One of the major stakeholders in Aurum is none other than the Kremlin-linked catering magnate Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of many of his catering contracts with the government. He’s also considered the owner of the Wagner Group, something Prigozhin adamantly denies. 

However, Prigozhin and Aurum have produced two films celebrating Russian private military company members. The first, which was “The Tourist” which was set in the Central African Republic (CAR) as Russian “instructors” are sent to the CAR on the eve of the presidential elections. 

A Russian mercenary from the film, “The Tourist” set in the Central African Republic. Photo by Aurum films.

The Moscow Times interviewed the director of the film, Denis Neymand, who explained the story behind the film. The Russian instructors (Wagner Group isn’t named in this film or the “The Tourist”), are working in the restive Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique and was based on true events that actually happened in 2019. 

“The movie was completely based on a Russian private military company in Mozambique. All of this happened in real life,” Neymand said. The interesting thing is Neymand told the MT that it “wasn’t a secret” during filming, which took place in the Central African Republic that the mercenaries on which the movie is based belonged to the Wagner group. However, Moscow has always denied that Wagner has any ties to the government.

“But we didn’t name them in the movie because it doesn’t really matter which private military company operates there. The movie is about showing how Russian guys help Africans against evil forces,” he added.

The film is dedicated “to our Russian boys” and opens as ISIS terrorists lay waste to a village in the Cabo Delgado region and urge two young boys, Jose and Luis to join the Islamic State or suffer the same fate as those villagers who were killed in the attack. 

The Mozambique government asks Russia for military assistance and they send a private military company and are led by Captain Granit, who track the terrorists through the jungle. There they find Jose, who has escaped from the terrorists. But Jose worries about his brother who is still a captive. 

There are plenty of special effects, pitched battle scenes, and a dramatic musical score. The heroic Russian mercenaries are looked to longingly by the Africans who lament the lack of more Russians to save them… “Soviets were like gods,” one African says. 

Aurum also owns the distribution rights for the film. “Shugalei,” a film which was also directed by Neymand which claims to tell the true story of Maxim Shugalei, a Russian political agent suspected of being close to Prigozhin who spent time in the Libyan prison on charges of meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

He was affiliated with one of Saint Petersburg’s most well-known troll networks, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), and was supported by several Hollywood actors, including Charlie Sheen Hollywood who recorded a video where he urged Shugalei to “not give up.” 

Featured photo, a still from the film “Granit”, Aurum Productions