Film Review: Donbass

The Donbass is a region is eastern Ukraine or south-western Russia, depending on your perspective. Given its geographical location, the area has had a rather turbulent and colourful history since the land was first populated in the 17th century. In 2014, it became the arena for Vladimir Putin’s latest muscle-flexing land grab/reclamation project, despite some bizarrely comical denials by the Russians.

Whilst the fighting still continues, off and on, it’s the setting for Sergey Loznitsa’s sideways looks at the absurdities and brutalities of the situation. Donbass comprises thirteen loosely-connect stories from the region, focusing on how the conflict has affected the lives of ordinary civilians and amateur and professional soldiers alike. There is bitterness with a side portion of gallows humour. People who have been on the edge for too long. His commentary ranges from pitch black satire to the harsh realities of life.

Inspired by watching amateur videos posted on the internet, Loznitsa has approached the war in the Donbass in a rather acerbic tone. He paints a picture of communities which are riven by self-interest and prejudice. It’s every man, woman and child for themselves. Daily privations and oppressions come from all sides, whilst actors prepare for the latest Russian news report. Donbass stands in stark contrast to the hopeful Maidan. It’s bleak, brutal and often compellingly dark.

Donbass is out in cinemas and One Demand from 26 April.

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