GDANSK, Poland (Reuters) - German film director Georg Genoux went as a volunteer to eastern Ukrainian city of Mykolaivka last November to film ordinary people talking about the Ukraine conflict and to help the city destroyed by shelling.
Based on his interviews with local residents, Genoux created “Fear in Ukraine”, shown at the Sopot non–fiction Festival of Documentary Theater in northern Poland that ended this weekend.
More than 6,500 people have been killed in the east since pro-Russian separatists rebelled against the Kiev government after Russia annexed Crimea in response to the ousting of a Moscow-backed president by street protests and his replacement by a pro-Western leadership.
“Our goal was to give an insight into how we felt when we suddenly were placed in such a situation,” Genoux, who went with a group of volunteers to aid the city, told Reuters.
”We have heard voices, voices, voices and in parallel with these voices we saw the town.”
The opening scene shows the half-ruined city filmed from a car window. A volunteer says that Mykolaivka looks like it was bombed yesterday and that nobody seems to be coming to clear the rubble.
Step by step, volunteers were “coming closer to the souls of the people”, Genoux said.
The film contains a story about a two-year-old girl who shouted “hooray” during the bombing because her parents had told her it was fireworks. An elderly woman, living in a hostel, says that a bomb destroyed her house and she has nowhere to go.
”We don’t understand whose war it is,” she said.
Festival curator Roman Pawlowski praised the documentary for its intellectual honesty.
”Georg doesn’t manipulate with emotions,” Pawlowski said.
“Fear in Ukraine” also touches on problems residents of the city are facing with loss of their cultural and societal identity.
Strong historical ties with Russia, attachment to Ukraine and propaganda from both sides create confusion among Mykolaivka citizens, the film says.
Opinions sometimes differ even within families, but pro-Russian or pro-Ukranian, everyone seems to feel a sense of irreversible change.
“When I went out after the shelling, I felt I was in a different place, in a different country,” one shop owner said.
Genoux , who continues to visit the city as a volunteer every month, plans to show “Fear in Ukraine” in Kiev, Sofia and, finally, in Mykolaivka.
Editing by Michael Roddy and David Goodman