By Mónica Delgado

Donbass is the name of an Eastern Ucranian territory which is described and critiqued by Sergei Loznitsa, in a key of absurdist tale about the crisis of that country and Russia, its big opposition. The acid humor pours in thirteen episodes, whether in usual situations about politic negotiations and others due to quotidian life in wartime. Meetings from different politicians, public workers and civil society, and also weddings or hospital dates, are part of simulacra machinery (actors are paid to create news) that the filmmaker uses as a prologue and epilogue, to enclose the facts of war in the realm of falsehood or “post-truth”.

In Donbass, Loznitsa rescues some facts that social network users upload to the web, and tries to simulate the way in which they are captured, meaning that he retakes the spontaneous aesthetics of some strange viral YouTube videos, which give account of an alienated and effervescent social sensibility.  Different kinds of nationalism awake both in their logic emptiness and its reckless fanatism. The Ucranian filmmaker portrays a micro universe of restless beings, hysterical, at the verge of exploding; military people from one side of the other, but also citizens in constant political stimuli.

The result, in Donbass, is a social scan which is corrosive and satirical, with strong moments that copy the brutality of real life, where also the form of farce and the grotesque can translate a diverse and raw humanity, which is inspired on the material some users upload to social media, and where, in the different passages of lynching, blackmail, massacres, tortures and refugees, we can find a document of ancient practices, where any process of consensus for a life driven by law and human rights are erased from the map.

Like in Flemish miniatures, the panoramic view is the best expression in Loznitsa’s cinema (something also portrayed in Maïdan), where everything exists in a remarkable way in the shot. There, he manages to make interact the mechanics of alienation with the strategies of simulacra or illusion, and turn them into a microorganism, where everything works and becomes involved for the political or military achievements of the moment.

It’s a relief to watch this Loznitsa in Cannes in such a state, especially in Un Certain Regard, something which shows that he’s recovering from his past year fiasco (A Gentle Creature).

Directing: Sergei Loznitsa
Cast: Boris Kamorzin, Valeriu Andriutã, Tamara Yatsenko mais
Germany, France, Ukraine, Netherlands, Romania
2018, 121 minutes