During the Maidan uprising that began in 2013, when protests in Ukraine led to the overthrow of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, many of the country’s filmmakers banded together to form a collective called #Babylon’13, Focus on exposing Russian aggression in their country. After Putin launched a full-scale invasion, I started corresponding with some of these filmmakers, hoping to find out local perspectives on the war. In March 2022, I met Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, one of the most exciting young directors in the country, during a Zoom meeting that went wrong. one. He was signed on from western Ukraine where he volunteered with #Babylon’13 to film the unfolding war events. He told me about a group of religious sculptors he met near Lviv who were retrained in building defensive barriers. We both felt they would make the subject of a fascinating documentary.The idea later became Anti-Tank Obstacle Etiquette, a film by new yorker.
From the beginning, Dmytro and I knew we wanted to make a war movie that didn’t show violence. Rather, our hope is to highlight the new reality of everyday life for Ukrainians. Dmytro shot the documentary over three weeks, capturing a transformative moment for artists near Lviv that resonates with the experiences of others across the country as their lives were upended by war and defense efforts Be reinvented. The resulting film has premiered at festivals including Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival (Dmytro was unable to obtain a visa to attend), and won first prize in the Huesca International Film Festival’s documentary competition , making it eligible as a finalist for the 2024 Academy Awards. Recently, we talked about the making of “Anti-Tank Barrier Etiquette” on Zoom, with Dmytro joining from his Kiev apartment. The call came while he was busy. He’s teaching filmmaking classes and touring with his first narrative feature, Pamfield – which centers on a man involved in crime and his village’s annual carnival. for the background—while, meanwhile, the war rages on.
Although there is a lot of Orthodox religious imagery in the film, Dmytro himself is not a believer in the Orthodox Church. (He told me that there are three things in life that he considers purely personal: “Who you want to love; who you want to believe; and what you want to eat. That’s your private business.”) Ukraine is a secular country, Zelen President Ski is Jewish. What attracted him to these artists was not their religious beliefs but their commitment to the same pragmatic pivot he saw across the country. When the invasion began, sculptors were making statues of the Virgin Mary or angels with happy expressions. Just a few weeks later, they began building anti-tank barriers. Across the country, Ukrainians are turning their focus to defense efforts. “No matter what you do before the war, you start to discover what you’re capable of,” Demytro told me. “I’m impressed by the change.”
Demytro himself went through a similar transformation. He and his wife were in Kiev when Russian troops invaded. They lived not far from the airport, and he remembered waking up from the explosion; a nearby house was damaged. He immediately began filming footage in the capital. He sees his responsibilities as a director as overlapping with those as a citizen, making films so that “you can see how people defend their sovereignty, their democracy, their territory, their own lives,” he told me.
For “Anti-Tank Obstacle Etiquette,” Demytro takes a patient, observational approach to telling the story. The film shows the artists working without presenting their individual backstories or personalities. He failed to mention that two of the three artists were now serving as soldiers in the war. When I asked him about his choice, he said he approached the film this way because he saw a pattern during the war: “Everyone in Ukraine, no matter where they were, they started to look like one person. Not A person. A piece. If you describe someone’s personality, they are unique, like a fingerprint. But if they join forces, they become a fist.” His idea was to show him in the film looking around to a sense of unity and collectivism: “They can be a giant fist that knocks down anyone who attacks them.”
Dmytro told me about a recent trip to Paris, where he completed his feature film that shows how common the reality of the invasion was for the Ukrainian people. One night at eleven o’clock, he realized that he had forgotten to buy water. He remembers thinking, oh shit, I forgot to buy water, I need to wait until the next day. His friend was confused and reminded him that the store was open late. Oh, shit, he thought again: You don’t have a curfew. This simple moment reminded him why telling stories from his own perspective was so important to him. Demytro told me that no matter how empathetic outsiders may be, “they eventually come back to reality. We come back to reality.” ❖