Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: Boney Piles


While Vladimir Putin might have started his official invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has been at war with its neighbour since 2014. Under the guise of ‘Russian-backed separatists’ he’s slyly attempted to capture the Dombas for the best part of a decade. Although the cameras of the world were pointed elsewhere until the tanks rolled in, this conflict has had a terrible impact on the inhabitants of this region.

Years of bombing and fighting has left much of Eastern Ukraine no more than a husk of its former self. Men are dead or injured. Families are decimated. Many relationships don’t survive the stress. Lots of people simply can’t cope with life anymore. Amongst the ruins and rubble Nastya and Yarik spend their days. Playing along with other children and looking for ways to make a little pocket money in order to buy things. They’re the subject of Taras Tomenko’s new documentary, Boney Piles.

Boney Piles is a difficult portrait of the desolation and destruction wreaked by war. This is both on the shape of the landscape and on the lives of those left living in its shadow. As Tomenko’s camera observes the pair, it’s clear that this is no normal upbringing. This pair are extremely resilient, but that only goes so far. The deep trauma is etched into their bones. Leaving a wound that may never be healed. Boney Piles brings a kind of alternate childhood to life in bright and weary hues.

Boney Piles screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

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