At the Berlinale, the war in Ukraine through the voices of Russian soldiers

The press officer warns us: Ukrainian director and photographer Oksana Karpovych sometimes cries during interviews. But it doesn’t matter, she says, it passes quickly. At the Berlinale, the 74th edition of which takes place until Sunday February 25, the thirty-year-old with a sweet face and bobbed blonde hair, has been conducting interviews – no more than twenty minutes – since journalists discovered her documentary, Intercepted , presented in the Forum section, dedicated to free forms.

The film, which does not yet have a distributor in France, is a strange journey through the territories liberated in Ukraine, since the invasion by Russia, on February 24, 2022. The experience is unforgettable, and much more original than the documentary by Abel Ferrara Turn in the Wound , unveiled in a special screening, mixing testimonies from Ukrainian soldiers and civilians with declamations of poems by Patti Smith.

We enter Intercepted as if we were entering a painting, with these fixed shots shot in destroyed house interiors. Then come moving images, taken from the windshield of a vehicle, staring at the road or muddy tracks. Some of them were filmed inside a Russian military vehicle, recovered like a trophy by the Ukrainians, during the counter-offensive in kyiv. Oksana Karpovych was very keen on it, like a symbol, and wanted to draw a route through regions where life is trying to take over. But what is striking about Intercepted is also its heady soundtrack, made up of conversations about war.

What we hear are phone calls from Russian soldiers on the Ukrainian front, to their loved ones – their wives, their mothers or their children. These words were intercepted at the start of the conflict by Ukrainian secret services, and made available online. Oksana Karpovych took on this material, using around thirty hours of recordings, made between March and the end of October 2022. She also obtained an hour of exclusive recordings, which she edited and integrated into the movie.

Banality of chatter

Born in kyiv, Oksana Karpovych studied cultural studies. (sociology, political science, etc.) at university in Ukraine, lived for nine years in Montreal, discovering photography and documentary around 2010. “Art and politics led me to make cinema. And these recordings seemed very rich to me for understanding not only the soldiers, but also Russian society,” she says.

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