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  • "What have you got for me?!" asks a soldier at a checkpoint in Eastern Ukraine. Not getting a lot of traction with locals on a bus who are obviously affected by the fighting and not well off, he seems genuinely pleased with the offering of a bit of lard to chew on. "Extermination squad volunteer" are the words pinned to a man as he is paraded around town by a Russian separatist soldier, berated and beaten by local citizens.

    Such stranger than fiction material from occupied Ukraine is the subject of an unconventional, unsettling and darkly humorous documentary. Film scenes are recreated from episodes gleaned from YouTube and other media. Get a front row seat to strange and disturbing scenes including bribery, confiscation, artillery barrages, the Lady MacBeth of Russian separatists, and more.

    Donbass is raw, revealing and powerful. No one can cover their eyes to what is going on in Donbass, which is nothing less than the recolonization of former Russian territory. People are virtually powerless and they bear the brunt of the fighting. Fire and violence tend to invite more of the same. 26 professional actors were employed, and the rest are locals, according to the director who was at this North American premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
  • It's a true glimpse into how modern war is being waged on Ukrainian soil. These are prime examples of how media and false news are being used to spread propaganda. What's not new is what war truly does to people. How it changes them. How humans desperately try to adapt to a desperate situation. The movie is very accurate and chosen to show only one side of the Donbass are on purpose (you can't squeeze all into one movie). It SHOULD raise questions about "how come I've never heard of this.?" in your mind. Maybe media in the west has deliberately chosen to neglect this particular issue. Why? All western countries bordering to Russia, however, follow events in Ukraine- and can varify the autenticity of this movie. To Ukranians- make sure you have a friend next to you to have a drink with afterwards.. you'll likely need it.
  • This movie is a sequence of barely connected vignettes about life in Russian-occupied east of Ukraine, and just how horrific and grotesque it is to live there at the moment. It captures all of the details flawlessly - it sometimes is shot for shot live-action version of existing videos on Youtube, but with real actors. Donbass is depressing as hell but so is the existence in that region, so it is well deserving of many awards that this movie received.
  • 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.
  • adrianclopotari23 February 2019
    Very good topic, ideea, good actors, but bad realisation. Repetitive scenes.