Political winds might well be changing if they are allowing honest portrayals of what is happening in Ukraine onto mainstream TV.
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The film, now available on YouTube, is very well made with excellent production values. It consists of a series of interviews with residents of Donbas, from ordinary people, to an American volunteer soldier from Houston (Russell 'Texas' Bentley), to the Prime Minister (Zakharchenko). It includes an interesting segment with a parish priest, who talks about the spiritual aspect of the war.
Democrat and left-leaning audiences will be surprised to learn of the strong socialist convictions of the Donetsk leadership. They are very serious about 'redistributing the wealth' and proud of their very affordable health-care. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would feel very much at home with them.
This is the 30 minute version which aired on Fox in the US.
This is the 70 minute version of the same film
The narrator is Peter von Berg, an American actor of Russian descent. Von Berg played a key role in the blockbuster series 'The Americans', 'Vasily Nikolaevich', the KGB chief at the Russian embassy in Washington, who was seduced and then framed by embassy employee Nina Krilova, whom the FBI had blackmailed. Krilova later had an affair with one of the main characters, FBI agent Stan Beeman.
In House of Cards, he played the Russian Foreign Minister, Ivan Bugayev. Von Berg also had frequent appearances on the 1990s TV show 'Law and Order'.
Von Berg is able to talk to the interview subjects in Russian. At one point in the film he tours the parts of Donetsk city which have been destroyed by long-range artillery. The devastation is appalling.
In addition to airing last weekend in the UK and US, the film was shown in Russia, where it was reviewed by prominent Russian film critic Alexander Shpagin. The following text is taken from his review:
The film “New York to Donetsk and back” tells of the drama of a people who found themselves in a certain condition, which for them was neither habitual nor expected – that of constant resistance, a stay in a besieged fortress where everyday life is essentially taking a Stand, and therefore loses those qualities and properties habitual to us – those we have already got used to behind our mundane capitalist existence with it’s settled rhythm of life.
Here the rhythm is different. It is the rhythm of an eternal alarm, a constant tension. It reminds of a cardiogram of a person struggling with illness.
They used to live in Donbass in the same way that the rest of us live. But they tried to disobey the new Ukrainian “powers” born of the coup in Kiev who have been consistently pushing the country to disorder.
Just refused to obey, nothing more. Initially nobody planned to resist (with arms), nor even thought of any offensive action. It was Kiev’s new “government” which started an offensive against Donbass. Now Donbass has entered into a strange, somewhat surrealistic space – a semi-war and a semi-peace, a permanent existential self-defense.
Does such a space create a special consciousness amongst the people who live there? Certainly. Any “romantic” superficial optimism and pathos gives way to a deep and dramatic comprehension of a complex world, which barely submits itself to one’s aspirations.
But then other states of mind and spirit also emerge. Before us we see the world, where “Man to Man” are brothers “for all that”. Where all are united by a common purpose and by a “Blitz” or “Leningrad blockade” spirit. Where all “hear” each other, as in “Avatar’s” Pandora. Where there is a special understanding between you and ‘“thy neighbour” – an understanding on a thinner, more sensory level than between you and I here, where we have it all “easy”.
The film is also defined by it’s lyrical-dramatic nature, it’s host encounters the state and the state of mind, as well as a state of perception, which is absolutely new to him. We see all the events through the eyes of a stranger, even if not a complete one - Peter von Berg, an American actor of Russian ancestry. He is absolutely key to this film, because he is on the “outside” of these events, like us. Without him they wouldn't appear on screen as convex and capacious. He is our eyes, our way of seeing. From our quiet, “normal” reality he enters a world existing in that thin place between life and death, albeit a morally firm one. Perhaps, much more morally firm and steadfast in spirit than the one we live in.
In the film there are two spiritual centres, two spiritual cores – external and internal. The external is defined by the American actor and the internal is the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic - Alexander Zakharchenko. An image of his consciousness – an absolutely steady condition of spirit coupled with the clear and distinct nature of his thinking. Gradually our American host develops a similar mindset. That’s how another deep layer of the film is created.
We understand that Donbass gives us a lesson in moral firmness, perhaps even sets a vector toward the way to go for the rest of us. Because we also – purely ontologically – live in that “instant between the past and the future” that, as a famous Russian song puts it, is exactly what Life is. Only we don’t often realise it.
Thanks to Donetsk we are reminded of that. We are getting a reminder of the immemorial ontology of Life.
There is only one Life, and death too. But in life there is a sense, a purpose. It is also called a Stand, being a spiritual stoicism before the world. More precisely, “the purpose” has to be that. Then the “feeling” of Life becomes sharp, more rigid, more dramatic, and that way – is truer to life.
One needs to take a Stand against Evil. Not to submit to Evil.
And so, after we see the film, we go on living our everyday lives. But Donetsk stays with us.The film is a remarkable lesson, a matrix of how simple publicistic journalism can develop into an in-depth social and philosophical study. Or perhaps turns into a religious parable.
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