Ukrainian filmmakers have mobilized quickly in their campaign to document Russia’s invasion of their country. While some are filming, others have taken up support roles to provide essential resources.
Festival organizer and producer Darya Bassel, whose recent film “A House Made of Splinters” won a directing award at Sundance in January, is among those who have set up a structure to provide logistical support.
Three days after evacuating from Ukrainian capital Kyiv with her family, Bassel has settled in an apartment in the Western town of Chernivtsi and has opened an office channeling means and materials to others. “We’re trying to help our friends who are in Kiev, because there are a lot of filmmakers and journalists [who are filming] events,” she told Variety by phone.
“Like 90% of the people I know that are Ukrainian filmmakers — and I know all of them — 90% of them are now either in Kiev, or in the east of the country. The first goal of all this filming is just to collect evidence of the crimes that Russians are doing to us. And then the second goal is, of course, to create films. But later.”
As both a documentary producer and organizer of the Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival in Kyiv, Bassel is an ideal knowledge center and connector.
“For some of our fellow filmmakers, it is simple stuff like food or chocolate. For others it is bulletproof vests, power banks and gasoline. We’re also trying to organize people who have cars to drive [filmmakers] from point A to point B,” said Bassel, and to “source things from our friends in Germany, Poland and Romania.”
Bassel insists that her role is more humanitarian than cultural or creative, though that could soon change. “All the [film] editors, they’re united in one group. And I have access to this group, so if somebody needs to edit anything, I’ll connect them,” she said.
“There is also one filmmaking group, which is called Babylon 13. They started in 2014 [at the time of the pro-Europe Maidan protests] and have created short videos that are published on YouTube channels,” said Bassel. “They’re more than active right now, [and] they are filming and editing. I think, in a couple of days, they will start publishing new material.”
Her own festival, which would have originally taken place from the end of March, is now a non-starter.
“Even online, there is no one who would watch it right now, because people are either sitting in their basements, or they’re under really heavy attacks, or they are trying to help others escape and trying to leave the country,” said Bassel. Instead, other festivals around Europe have offered to host parts of her selected lineup, and she is circulating lists of recommended films.
Bassel says that despite the horrors of war and the dislocation, most Ukrainians remain optimistic. She believes that the current news images and the activities of documentary filmmakers are already playing a crucial role in deflecting propaganda and promoting the truth.
“Finally, after eight years, people stop calling what’s happening here a ‘conflict’ or just a ‘situation.’ They no longer think that it is a civil war. That was never the case,” said Bassel. “So finally, the word has got out and the world has understood that it is an occupation of our country. It is a war by Russia against Ukraine. We’re in horrible situation right now. But you know, there is this positive side that people finally understood what is really going on here.”