Friday, April 12, 2024

ND/NF ’24: Intercepted

This is a film built around real people, who, like reality TV stars, constantly embarrass and disgrace themselves. In the case of these Russian soldiers, they repeatedly confess to war crimes, wanton cruelty, jingoistic prejudice, and just generally getting their butts kicked on the legitimate battlefield by Ukrainian soldiers. They were calling home, but Ukrainian intelligence was listening. The resulting recordings reveal the depravity and demoralization of the invading Russian military in Oksana Karpovych’s documentary, Intercepted, which screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films.

It is easy to understand why Russian soldiers are not supposed to phone home. They reveal a lot, but the intercepts the Ukrainian government chose to release to the world expose the Russian militarist attitude rather than sensitive intelligence. For instance, nearly every caller uses the terms “Khokhols” and “Banderites,” which are Russian slurs for the Ukrainian people.

Several calls frankly describe the intentional mass murder of Ukrainian civilians. They are literally talking shooting people in the head and then dumping them in a ditch. Much like the harrowing
20 Days in Mariupol, Intercepted should be entered into evidence during a future war crimes tribunal.

The confessions are truly damning, but the attitude of the Russians back home might be even more disturbing. Their girlfriends, wives and mothers express outrage that the Ukrainians are not welcoming the Russian invaders into their home, even while literally cheering on the torture and killing of non-combatant Ukrainians.

The calls do all the film’s talking, so Karpovych marries them up with fixed shots of the destruction left by the Russians’ scorched earth bombings. Yet, there is also a telling reminder of the Ukrainian people’s devout faith, when we watch a group of survivors milling outside their neighborhood church. All of Putin’s supposedly ultra-Christian supporters should be forced to watch this film (along with
20 Days in Mariupol) and then challenged to reconcile their perverse foreign policy with their professed religious values.

Intercepted, it is clear the wreckage in Ukraine has been physical, but the profound spiritual damage done to Russia by Putin and his enablers is far worse. It looks deceptively calm, but the audio is genuinely shocking. This is a film that needs to be seen and needs to be heard even more. Very highly recommended, Intercepted screens tonight (4/12) and Sunday (4/14) as part of ND/NF ’24.