Truth is the first victim of war, one could sum up the film Donbass, which confused me more than it educated me. But it did so in a memorable, partly unsettling, partly amusing, way.
In 13 episodes, Sergei Loznitsa portrays life in embattled Eastern Ukraine. Or his imagination of life there. Or how the separatists portray life there. Or an image of the separatists that Ukraine wants us to have of them. Or even more complicated. Again and again, there are false flags and blatant lies.
If you haven’t read anything about the war in Ukraine, you won’t understand much from watching this film. But the one thing one is reminded of starkly: a country in Europe has been experiencing war since 2014. The fact that the rest of Europe, and the world, needs to be reminded thereof is part of the problem.
The film is not for those of delicate disposition, as some episodes are rather brutal, like the lynching or the massacre in the make-up salon. But then, others are very funny, like the checkpoint where soldiers hope to take some lard of grandmothers on the bus. Or the men in prison, all desperate on their phones.
Throughout the film, the actors are very good. You never know if they are professional actors, extras hired on the spot, or if they are just themselves, not even noticing the camera.
I haven’t been to Ukraine yet – a shortcoming that shall be rectified soon -, but I feel like I have met many of the characters in Donbass over the years of living and traveling in Eastern Europe. Including the Russians greeting me with “Hitler kaputt” upon learning that I am from Germany:
Do you have other film recommendations for my upcoming trip to Ukraine?