Elon University / Today in Elon / Global Neighborhood film series kicks off with Donbass

The Global Neighborhood 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. Starting Tuesday, September 20, the Global Film Series features films from around the world that focus on the “inside/outside” theme.

Last Tuesday, hosted by Global Commons, students and educators were invited to watch Donbass, a film set in war-torn eastern Ukraine. The Global Film Series is being hosted by Dan Burns, Associate Professor of English, and Binnan Gao, Lecturer in Chinese for World Languages ​​and Cultures, whose efforts have certainly paid off. Sandy Marshall, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, presented the film, and guest speaker Vitaliy Strogush, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, from Ukraine.

The film takes place in the separated Ukraine. A parody of what happened in the region from 2014 to the present, “Donbass” takes place in eastern Ukraine, now referred to as Novorossiya. As Russian propaganda and manipulation become more widespread, society begins to crumble. Often referred to as “angry,” Donbass shows the separatist, Russian-backed region of Ukraine from multiple angles.

Although it seems that the film is assembled from different pieces, in fact, everything is quite the opposite. Each scene in the film highlights how different people and places in the region would function under a different government. There’s a scene showing a military checkpoint where the people on the bus are mistaken for the army, and another where there’s a government meeting that doesn’t go well. The scenes fit together well, even going full circle at the end with the same scene from the beginning, but slightly different. Novorossiya in this film is shown as a dark place in every scene; a place where people are beaten to insensibility on the streets, justifying their actions with fascists and Nazis.

The Q&A session with Strohush discussed how the Russians were using the Nazis to justify their attacks, since World War II was a battle they won and it was a battle against the Nazis. A common enemy, the film shows how this is used to unite Russians, and the threat of fascism can push them to believe it, even to the point of fighting the “rebels” to keep Novorossiya alive.

Despite the fact that the film by Sergei Loznitsa “Donbass” was released in 2018, it reflects the current war in Ukraine. Eastern Ukraine is currently under invasion by the Russian army. The events of “Donbass” saturated with propaganda and manipulation can be attributed to the invasion. Trying to involve the Donbass in the war, Russia may well try to create its own Novorossiya. Similarities in the justifications for terrorist attacks in both film and war are similar. Putin justifies his invasion of Ukraine by claiming that he is “denazifying” Ukraine, a similar argument that soldiers in the “Donbass” use as an argument when attacking. In addition, this denazification of Ukraine, according to Putin, is similar to what the Soviet Union did during World War II.

At the end of the film, there was a question and answer session with Strohush. One of the issues discussed in 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 is also related to the defeat of the Nazis, thanks to which Russia manages to avoid many invasions. During the discussion, we were told that they used the same pretext when they invaded many other Eastern European countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and now Ukraine, claiming to be defeating the Nazis.

Strogush also spoke first hand about how things are in Ukraine, as he and his wife have a family that lives in the country. He talked about the fact that the sirens of bomb shelters turn on quite often, people rush to the bomb shelters because of the danger. He also gave an insight into the film from his point of view, giving viewers more details about the feelings behind the film and the views of the director and crew.

There is violence in Donbass, which enhances its realistic approach. In many cases it feels like you are watching a documentary and the film does a great job of using emotions, anger, sadness and others to play on the visual experience.

The next film to be screened by the Global Neighborhood as part of the Global Film Series is 2018’s Run, directed by Jonas Pocher Rasmussen. An animated film that tells the true story of Amin, an Afghan migrant who lives in Denmark and tries to come to terms with his past in order to accept his future. After the film there will also be a discussion that will add a lot to the films and is necessary to bring them together. If interested, the film will be screened in the Global Commons 103 media room on Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00 pm. Come and join the movie!

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