IDFA Review: Trenches

A Ukrainian soldier in the trenches

Due to advances in weaponry and military technology, trench warfare became prevalent in 1914 at the beginning of World War I. It started an age of martial attrition, where the defenders had the advantage and each metre of ground was gained through (often days and weeks of) blood, sweat and tears. With the arrival of tanks and other armoured vehicles this way of waging warfare became much less efficient and effective, but has never entirely died-out.

However, trench warfare is playing an integral role in the conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Both the government and pro-Russian forces have ‘dug-in’ to defend their positions. Days and days of little happening apart from occasional shelling and bombardment. The war has been trundling on since 2014. It’s mostly monotonous time serving but death is never too far away. This is captured in Loup Bureau’s new documentary, Trenches.

Trenches follows life in these makeshift defences and constructions, documenting both the ennui and pointlessness of war and the inherent danger of simply being in this situation. Indeed, Loup Bureau’s film makes the point that even in circumstances such as these the lasting mental trauma is difficult to quantify. The daily dread. The constant anxiety. All for some ridiculous political point-scoring exercise.

Trenches screens at International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam.

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