“Cry, but do filming!” – the famous Ukrainian film director Olexandr Dovzhenko told to the documentary filmmakers during the Second World War. And they filmed. They are still filming now, sometimes creating real cinematic art… no matter how strange it sounds about pictures of such a terrible reality.
There are photographs from the First World War – creepy and yet beautiful images of the dead war landscape: the earth dug by trenches, single trees, lots and lots of barbed wire. Now we have plenty of similar shots just outside Kyiv: black craters on a snowy field, antitank hedgehogs on a deserted road, a pattern of tires of military equipment on the ground… Passed through the eye of the camera and through the heart of the author, that becomes something more than an ordinary record of war. Let’s also add what can be called “the art of war authorship”: a wall of ruined cars – a spontaneous installation that no Ukrainian will forget; a monument to Taras Shevchenko with a shot in the temple which is looking towards the destroyed houses; a statue of St. Volodymyr in a protective scaffolding from the shelling of “Orthodox brothers”. And, finally and the most importantly, people who are willing to share their experiences and preserve perhaps the most painful memories of their lives on a filmtape (or on a server, it doesn’t matter). Taken separately, these images are known, may be, to each of us. But cinema has its own mathematics, here 1+1=3. And in the documentary project of Iryna Pravlo and her team, these fragments will create an image of the whole de-occupied Kyiv region.
So far, we are not talking about the finished film, but about its promo – a kind of sketch, which, we hope, will turn into a full-fledged canvas on the history of the Russian-Ukrainian war. It does not even have a specific title yet, for now it is only a laconic “War Documentary. Promo short”. What is the film about? “This is the story of heroes who are recovering from the destruction in the Kyiv region, united by a common traumatic experience of meeting with the Russian aggression, hopes for victory and revival,” says the press release. In other words, it is a slice of post-occupation life, with its own dramaturgy (as far as possible in a not-yet-film): from the destroyed infrastructure and the spontaneous cemetery near the church to the emotional core – the stories of people who survived the occupation and those who are driving the occupiers out of this land. And the ending is the image of the temple as a symbol not of the religion, but of the faith. Of the faith in a better future without war.
There are many epic close-ups that show the horror of devastation and the beauty of the world that was touched by that devastation. But equally, if not more, important is the cinematic portrait that is the “collective portrait of Ukrainians living within the shared drama of a military invasion, the largest in Europe since World War II,” as the authors define it. These are civilians and combatants: Buchan priest Andriy Galavin, artist Serhiy Vutyanov and his wife Natalia who survived the occupation, Vitaliy and Serhiy who are the driver and the mechanic of an infantry fighting vehicle of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Making documentaries about the war is painful and frightening: the wounds of the whole society are too fresh, the material is too dangerous. Dangerous, by the way, in the literal sense. As the director Iryna Pravlo says: “Sometimes we were so focused on our work that the locals would say: “You were walking there, we didn’t want to scare you, so that you wouldn’t pull your leg, but it may still be mined. We do not go there”. Thank God, there was a kind of protection and it just drove as it should to”. Anyway, a lot of material has already been collected, some of it is still being collected. It is important that the authors strive not only to capture, but also to present it artistically, taking care of the style and content: there are many spectacular shots, but it is not an empty beauty, it is “reformatting” reality into an image, saturating it with additional meanings. This is how vertical panning of a ruined house or a surviving temple works, they become symbols of destroyed peaceful life and preserved hope, respectively.
Our story is incomplete and superficial, but, as already mentioned, it only tells about the project. We would like to see the finished film and judge it, but this is a matter of time and, we afraid, lots of effort. So now we are cheering and waiting. Those who want to help the project can do it by clicking the link:
The promo was implemented with the support of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation within the project “War Documentary Project. Short promotional web film” program “Scholarship for the restoration of cultural and artistic activities”.
Film crew: director, producer, cameraman Iryna Pravilo; cameraman, executive producer Oleksandr Meshcheryakov; composer Ihor Zavhorodniy; co-producer Yulia Zimmermann.
Production studio – Right Time Studios
Estimated release date — 2023.
The promo can be viewed here:
War Documentary. Promo Short | Directed by Iryna Pravylo | Right Time Studios