Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"A film that lives in the moment."

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 2022, it has rarely been far from the headlines. Beyond the horror of refugees fleeing a warzone, attacks on civilians and the state of the fighting itself, a complex picture has also emerged of increasing food prices and a world food crisis caused by the Russian refusing to let Ukraine export its grain.

This latest documentary on the subject, directed by Karim Amer, whose previous films include The Great Hack and, with his producing hat on, The Square, steps into the corridors of power in Ukraine from day one of the conflict. The docmentarian speaks to and follows high level politicians including Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk and negotiator Rustem Umerov who, at the time of writing, was recently promoted to Defence Minister.

The result, cut together with pace by editing trio Emiliano Battista, Zachary Obid and Austin Reedy offers a behind-the-scenes viewpoint of unfolding events, including a consideration of the high levels of diplomacy at work not just to keep Europe and the US onside, but also to acquire weapons and move towards EU membership. By putting us in the cauldron of war, Amer offers a palpable sense of the heat of the moment that sees the politicians juggling competing pressures of international diplomacy with national duties as they visit areas that have been liberated from Russian forces.

These moments are hard hitting and feature the bodies of the dead as you might expect from a reportage film of this nature. Amer doesn’t need to linger on this to bring the message home and, as this film indicates, things are moving at such a pace, those in political positions often don’t have the luxury of time to grieve. The film also covers, briefly, the Ukranian’s use of technology as a weapon, including Elon Musk’s Starlink, mentioned here in positive terms but, in an indication of the shifting sands of conflict, is back in the news in a more negative light this week.

Some occasional onscreen dates would be useful to help keep us orientated as the way Amer moves from subject to subject sometimes feels a bit unweildy but this is a film that lives in the moment. So it is that we see the food crisis negotiations and the realisation that Russia was abducting children unfold in what amounts to real time. Many of the events may be familiar but Amer’s film gives them a fresh, urgent perspective from the viewpoint of those engaged in the high level diplomatic gymnastics required to fight a war.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2023
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This documentary offers unique access to Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and other key figures in the administration who are fighting to save their country against Russia's invasion by combatting disinformation.

Director: Karim Amer

Starring: Dmytro Kuleba, Mykhailo Fedorov, Rustem Umerov, Iryna Andriivna Vereshchuk

Year: 2023

Runtime: 94 minutes

Country: US, Ukraine, UK

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