Donbass (2018)

  |  Drama


Donbass (2018) Poster

In eastern Ukraine, society begins to degrade as the effects of propaganda and manipulation begin to surface in this post-truth era.

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7/10
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  • Evgeny Chistyakov in Donbass (2018)
  • Lyudmila Smorodina at an event for Donbass (2018)
  • Donbass (2018)
  • Sergey Kolesov and Svetlana Kolesova in Donbass (2018)
  • Thorsten Merten in Donbass (2018)
  • Valeriu Andriuta at an event for Donbass (2018)

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25 February 2019 | JvH48
7
| Loosely coupled scenes showing lawlessness in a country at war, based on real events published on social media. We see facts grossly ignored and they/us differences overblown
Saw this at the Rotterdam film festival 2019. If this movie wanted to showcase chaos and lawlessness in a warzone annex newly born country, they did it very well. On the other hand, we did not get a chance to feel involved with the local people as we hardly know enough about the circumstances and the differences that kept those people apart. The division in loosely coupled chapters did not help either. There is nothing to bind the chapters together, merely leading to several (and now for something completely different) sketches. All of them interesting in their own way, but we are left to our own devices to arrive at a common morale or a message.

We often heard the word "fascist" used, more as a general word to denote something negative, rather than having to do with the real meaning of fascism (just like the word "communist" in the Mccarthyism era in the USA was used for everything beyond the norm). I got the impression that the soldiers at the road blocks also did not know exactly what was going on and in which battle(s) they were involved. Similarly, the man tied to a lantern pole and exposed to the whims of the public, was also often accused of being one of the fascists over there, leaving us to assume that the people "over there" also used some label for the opposite side. As a side note, the German journalist held up at one of the road blocks was indirectly labelled as a fascist, because he may not be a fascist himself, but his father and grandfather surely had been one (I quote).

The movie consists of a series of separate chapters, on very different locations and in even more different settings, among which a road block and a wedding. Only the first and last chapter were connected by showing the same persons and location, having their make up ready in preparation of a "real live" scene. The ending of the second instance was a bit unexpected, however, but fitted very well in the "fake news" theme of the movie. We hear, for instance, a witness who saw a mass killing from her balcony, give her "testimony" two times in front of a camera crew, seemingly spontaneous including tears and being unable to speak further. We know better while watching how the scene was created twice (a second take was needed for a wider shot, but the "spontaneous" elements were identical).

All in all, the movie kept me at a distance and did not involve me. Even worse, I saw the well-known problems of former Sovjet-countries also manifest here, like corruption, unability to depend on the law, and self-serving civil servants. (Is this a pun? It sounds like one but not intended.)

The emphasis on fake news as the central theme of this movie, escaped me. But I see it in any synopsis or review, so I may have missed something important. Or was it intended to suggest a contemporary theme, something we should be concerned about?? I've read somewhere that the stories we see were all based on previous "fake news" clips on social media. In hindsight, this may explain the assortment of loosely coupled "sketches" without a common central theme.

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