Saturday, June 18, 2022

Tribeca ’22: A Rising Fury

Biden tells us Zelenskyy refused to believe him when he warned the Ukrainian President of Putin’s full-scale invasion, but that seems unlikely. After all, the Ukrainian military volunteers interviewed for this documentary back in 2014 and 2015 all predicted it, sooner rather than later. Some of them have very personal experiences with Russia’s attempts to undermine their nation, as they explain in Lesya Kalynska & Ruslan Batytskyi’s documentary, A Rising Fury, which screens as an “At Home” selection of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Pavlo Pavliv and Svitlana Karabut are trying to maintain a relationship, but the war in the Donbass region makes it difficult. His activism started while maintaining the protective barricades at Maidan, but his military training began earlier, when an older man named Igor, call-sign: “Berkut (Hawk),” took him under his wing and recruited him for his Airsoft team.

Eventually, Pavliv and Karabut deduce Igor is actually an undercover Russian operative deliberately targeting marginalized young Ukrainian men, to turn them against their country. It is chilling example of organized subversion that ought to make all viewers take note, especially considering how successful Igor was.

In fact, it is probably the most newsworthy element of the film, because even though Kalynska & Batytskyi’s coverage of Maidan and Donbass includes some dramatic footage, it is not radically unlike other Ukrainian documentaries. However, when taken together with its insights into Russia’s long-game psy-ops, as represented by Igor, it is quite valuable indeed.

Rising Fury is personal for the filmmakers, because it is dedicated to Kalynska’s grandmother, Liudmyla Kalynska, who died from heart failure after she was evacuated from the smoldering ruins of Bucha. Yet, they never inject themselves into the film. Instead, they present a portrait of a nation under siege. There are inspiring scenes of Ukrainians using music and humor to maintain their spirits, but the film makes it clear they are facing a formidable and ruthless invading force.

At one point, a Ukrainian commander explains to the camera how Russia forces mount artillery on the roofs of hospitals and schools. Just for the record, the use of human shields is considered a war crime. If the international media had been paying as much attention as
Kalynska & Batytskyi were at the time, they wouldn’t have been so shocked by Putin’s scorched earth tactics. Fortunately, this film will be available for future reference, in terms of war crime tribunals and strategies for dealing with belligerent aggressors. Highly recommended, A Rising Fury screens “At Home” through the end of Tribeca ’22.