Monday, January 7, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Distant Barking of Dogs

The Distant Barking of Dogs
Directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont
Released January 5, 2019

In today’s age, and throughout history, there are many wars that happen, and it’s almost impossible to keep track of what is raging where. With the prevalence of communication and technology in the present day, it can still often feel as if far-away conflicts have dissipated, while those still living that daily reality understand full well that all has not been resolved. Many areas of the world where innocents are harmed by ongoing violence have been spotlighted in recent documentaries, with some looking at the political and overarching roots of the conflict and others zeroing in on those most affected by something around them that they are hopeless to control.

This film is set in Eastern Ukraine in the village of Hnutove, which is the center point between competing forces with interests fighting for Ukrainian sovereignty and Russian oversight. Oleg is ten years old, living with his grandmother Alexandria. As others gradually move away, and Oleg is force to mature at an incredible rate, preparing for life-threatening situations with his classmates and doing his best to preserve his innocence while he plays with his friends just a short distance away from tremendous danger that could strike at any moment.

This film introduces its characters by explaining some of what has led to the violence near Hnutove, but it is primarily about the people involved and how growing up and existing in a war zone affects them. Alexandria has a difficult task in raising Oleg, partially because he lost his own mother at a very young age, before, as she explains, he could comprehend it and cry when she was killed. Oleg visits her grave, where Alexandria assures him that she can hear what he says to her, even though she is surely doubting the length of her own life given their location and the lack of any end in sight for the nearby fighting.

This documentary made the fifteen-wide shortlist for the Oscar category for this year, one of just a few foreign-language entries. “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” a nominee in 2015 for that same award, is a very effective companion piece for this film that looks at the start of student protests and full-blown revolution in the country beginning in 2013. While this human examination is poignant, it’s not nearly as resounding or informative as that showcase, successful in being in the moment with its two primary figures without touching on what it is that has led to their surrounding situation.


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