Alisa in Warland
Alisa in Warland
Alisa Kovalenko is a film student in Kiev when the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution kicks off. She grabs her camera and her boyfriend Stephane, a French journalist and lecturer, and heads into the streets to capture the heady intoxication of toppling President Viktor Yanukovych. But when the situation escalates and the battles with Russia begin in earnest, documentation is no longer enough for Kovalenko. She is compelled to travel to the front and take on a much more active role. Here is where serious questions arise. At what point does documentary end and life begin? Objectivity and emotional distance are no longer possible when you become the subject of your own film.
Kovalenko embeds with the Ukrainian soldiers of the Right Sector and takes up arms, along with her trusty camera. To her, these young soldiers are sweethearts, but to the outside world they are a far-right paramilitary group. Alisa can’t reconcile their reputation with her experience of these dedicated men fighting for Ukraine, so she doesn’t even try. She joins the soldiers on their missions, endures artillery bombardments, and is captured and suspected of being a spy. She visits the few townspeople who remain in battle sectors because they have nowhere to go. Meanwhile, Stephane has returned to France and via Skype calls and phone messages, begs her to stay safe and to try to remain objective. But Alisa has become one of the boys and their protection will give her a very particular perspective on this war. She is quickly seduced by ideas of nationalist glory and militarism, and laughs as the soldiers teach her how to use an automatic weapon. Alisa in Warland is a breathtakingly honest look at the Ukrainian struggle, through the eyes of a young woman looking for meaning and identity in the midst of a brutal conflict. -KR