The Editorial Office


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Roman Bondarchuk: 'I think false news, manipulations, it's something everywhere, and we just had the opportunity to study this phenomenon in an example of a small place and small situations, which I know well'
"Even Kafkaesque ideas are subject to chaos."

War in Ukraine was a distant rumble in the background of Roman Bondarchuk’s feature debut Volcano. Now, as he reteams with co-writers Alla Tyutyunnik, who is also his mum, and Dar'ya Averchenko to write again about the southern part of Ukraine, the sound of the impending Russian invasion is louder but still feels one step removed from the everyday chaos of life on the ground.

“Fake. That’s our reality,” says a journalist, summing up the tension at the heart of this absurdist comedy drama. The Editorial Office is, indeed, a place where stories are not only created but bought and paid for and their relationship to reality is optional. Even Kafkaesque ideas are subject to chaos. All of which is a far cry from the life of Yura (non-professional Dymtro Bahnenko, whose experiences inspired the character). His work is all about quantifiable facts - specifically, documenting examples of the steppe (bobak) marmot in a bid to get the forests of the region a protected European status.

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Out one day on a survey, he spots a group of men deliberately setting the forest alight - a move that the film later reveals is as much about capitalism as destruction. It’s a truth he wants to bring to the world, but stone cold evidence is not as valuable as he suspects. This is just the tip of a film that, as with Bondarchuk’s previous feature, views the south of Ukraine as a sort of unregulated Wild West. Here, there are familiar bandits like American Bob Trusk (Joel Kenneth Rakos) who is selling cryptocurrency to the unsuspecting masses, but there are others who wear the dress of politicians and engage in dance contests for votes.

Yura takes his story to The Truth Of The Steppe, a place whose offices, in a thinly veiled metaphor, are virtually derelict, they won’t publish but send him on to the Pectoral newspaper, who, for reasons, immediately offer him a job. Yura is, like the hero of Volcano, a sort of innocent abroad as he keeps battling on with his piece of truth in a sea of lies.

Although the film is rooted in genuine experiences, as with Volcano, everything feels slightly surreal - whether it’s the mayor running for election and apparently appearing in viral videos while laid up in a coma or a Midsommar-esque cult inspired by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Beneath the humour, there are plenty of serious points being made about everything from client journalism and the clickbait news cycle that feeds it to environmental exploitation. Although the structure of the film occasionally feels so loose it might fall apart, the strength of the direction holds things together. In a news-hungry world where nothing is redacted, the truth can be hard to spot even when it’s in plain sight.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2024
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The Editorial Office packshot
Satire sees a biologist mixed up in a web of fake news as he tries to reveal a story.

Director: Roman Bondarchuk

Writer: Alla Tyutyunnyk, Dar'ya Averchenko, Roman Bondarchuk

Starring: Dmytro Bahnenko, Zhanna Ozirna, Rymma Ziubina, Andrii Kyrylchuk, Oleksandr Shmal

Year: 2024

Runtime: 126 minutes

Country: Ukraine


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