Elon University / Today in Elon / The Global Neighborhood Film Series Kicks Off with “Donbass”
Global Neighborhood’s film series began on Tuesday with a Ukrainian film titled “Donbass”.
The Global Neighborhood would like to invite the Elon community to join the monthly Global Movie Nights. Beginning Tuesday, September 20, the Global Film Series presents films from around the world focusing on the theme of “inner peace/outer peace”.
Last Tuesday, hosted on Global Commons, students and faculty were invited to watch a live stream of “Donbass,” a film set in war-torn eastern Ukraine. Dan Burns, assistant professor of English, and Binnan Gao, professor of Chinese in World Languages and Cultures, are working on the organization of the Global Film series, whose efforts have certainly paid off. Sandy Marshall, associate professor of geography, introduced the film and guest speaker Vitaliy Strohush, assistant professor of economics from Ukraine.
The film is set in a separate Ukraine. A parody of what has happened in the region from 2014 to the present day, “Donbass” is set in eastern Ukraine, now named Novorossiya. As Russian propaganda and manipulation became more and more prevalent, the way society began to crumble. A film often described as “angry”, “Donbass” shows many different angles of a breakaway, Russian-backed region of Ukraine.
Although it looks like the movie is pieced together, it’s quite the opposite. Each scene in the film highlights how different people and places in the region would function under a different creed and government alignment. There’s a scene that shows a military checkpoint where the men on a bus are being taken away for the army, and another where a government meeting is going on and doesn’t go so well. The scenes follow each other well, even coming full circle at the end with the same scene as at the start but a little different. Novorossiya in this film is shown as a dark place in every scene; a place where they beat up senseless people in the streets, using fascism and Nazis to justify their actions.
During a Q&A session with Strohush, it was discussed how the Russians use the Nazis to justify their attacks, because WWII was a battle they had won, and this was the battle. against the Nazis. Common enemy, the film shows how it serves to unite the Russians, and the threat of fascism can push them to believe in it, to the point of fighting “rebels” to keep Novorossiya alive.
Despite being released in 2018, Sergei Loznitsa’s “Donbass” reflects the current war in Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine is currently under invasion by the Russian army. Intertwined with propaganda and manipulation, the events of “Donbass” can be applied to the invasion. Attempting to take the Donbass region into war, Russia could very well try to create its own Novorossiya. The similarities in the justifications for the attacks in the film and in the war are similar. Putin justified his invasion of Ukraine by claiming to “denazify” Ukraine, similar reasoning to what the “Donbass” soldiers give to justify their attack. Moreover, this denazification of Ukraine, as Putin puts it, resembles what the Soviet Union did in World War II.
After the film’s conclusion, a Q&A was held with Strohush. One of the things covered in the Q&A is what Russia is doing to justify its attacks. The defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II is something Russians are proud of. This defeat also meant defeating the Nazis, which is how Russia gets away with many invasions. During the discussion, we were told that they used the same excuse to invade many other Eastern European countries such as Georgia, Moldova and now Ukraine, claiming to defeat the Nazis.
Strohush also gave first-hand testimony about the situation in Ukraine, as he and his wife have family who live in the country. He talked about the bomb sirens going off quite often, with people rushing to the bomb shelters for safety. He also gave an insight into the film from his perspective, telling the crowd about the feelings behind the film and the perspective of the director and production team in more depth.
“Donbass” features violence, a factor that intensifies its realistic approach. There are plenty of times where you feel like you’re watching a documentary and the film does a great job of using emotions, anger, sadness or whatever, to play into the viewing experience.
The next film Global Neighborhood will feature in the Global Film Series is the 2018 film, “Flee”, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. An animated film telling the true story of Amin, an Afghan migrant who lives in Denmark and who comes to terms with his past to embrace his future. The film will also be followed by a discussion which will add a lot to the films and is essential in linking them. If you’re interested, the film will stream in Global Commons Media Room 103 on Tuesday, October 18 at 7 p.m. Come and join us for a movie!