By Anthony Seward
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Documentary shows the harsh reality of imperialist war

Documentary is flawed but shows the reality of Russia's war with Ukraine
Issue 2900
Ukraine Russia imperialist

In Ukraine’s War: The Other Side filmmaker Sean Langan travels into the Russian side of the war in Eastern Ukraine

Sean Langan’s Ukraine’s War: The Other Side received a quiet reception upon its British release in February.

This documentary is unique in Western journalism on the war, aiming to tell the stories of the soldiers and civilians in Russian controlled Ukraine.

It consists of three trips made by Langan to the Donbas region— the area of eastern Ukraine held by a combination of Russian and local forces—between October 2022 and March 2023.

The documentary shows huge apartment blocks derelict and lifeless, elderly people living under the constant terror of bombardment, a civilian dead in a burnt-out car unable to answer his ringing phone.

Nato pledges to Ukraine are often presented as vast abstract sums of money. But Langan’s documentary shows us what this money means. It means more shells that devastate cities. It means drones maiming soldiers in trenches. 

The documentary arguably falls short of its aim of giving a voice to those caught on the Russian side of the conflict. Langan seems more interested in indulging in the heroics of war reporting. 

His analysis is limited to criticising Russia and its propaganda, and it is likely that anything more rigorous would have prevented it from being aired in the West.

Despite its tameness, it received a visceral reaction from many who support deepening the war. Responding to its airing, Ukrainian ambassador Vasyl Miroshnychenko described it as “the equivalent to a bowl of vomit”.

One possible reason for his reaction is that by giving a voice to ordinary people living and fighting on the other side, the documentary exposes complexities often omitted from the West’s narrative.

As both sides suffer heavy losses, both states are looking to bolster their forces. It will be working class people on both sides that bear the brunt of this war.

The exposure the film offers to the totality of fear and destruction imposed on ordinary people by imperialism is useful. Everyone presented with this immense needless suffering should want to see a stop to it.

That is why we as socialists call for an immediate end to the war.

Available to watch on ITVX 

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