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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > Anthology > Torture > Genocide > Documentary > Ukraine > Bad Roads (2014)/Donbass (2019)/The Earth Is Blue As An Orange (2020)/Reflection (2019/all Film Movement DVDs)

Bad Roads (2014)/Donbass (2019)/The Earth Is Blue As An Orange (2020)/Reflection (2019/all Film Movement DVDs)

Picture: C Sound: C/C+/C/C+ Extras: C- Films: C+/B-/B-/B-

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one of the most horrific events in recent decades, the first conventional war of it particular kind (read nation state war) like it in the nuclear era, Vladimir Putin finally going all the way in his madness to avenge the fall of the USSR/Soviet Union and take the most explicitly violent and gruesome actions that are just getting worse and worse as we post. No telling how bad by the time you read this, but a second nuclear plant is now being toyed with and despite Ukraine fighting back in a stunning show of resistance, the nightmare is far from over.

Since the Soviet Union fell in 1990, the many countries that made it up resumed their original forms and identities, but this also meant the return of some older conflicts picking up where they left off after over seven decades. The conflict between neighboring Russia and Ukraine has been slowly brewing with Russian Nationalist in both countries stirring up any trouble they can. This includes murder and other organized criminal activities that violate the Geneva Conventions to no end.

Film Movement has issued four films at the same time on the same subject, all recognized critically and awarded accordingly that are as timely as ever. Though three are dramas, they are not totally fictitious and offer insight into what led up to where world politics are on this conflict, plus start to scratch the surface of how Ukraine has suffered so badly in advance of current events.

Natalya Vorozhbit's Bad Roads (2014) is the first of two anthologies here, with four stories of how horrific life over there has been, the title referring to few good places to go without encountering something life threatening or awful. Suspenseful and rightly disturbing, it might sometimes be more so than expected and without enough exposition at times, though that might be to get the audience to feel they are experiencing things first hand. It never wallows in any of it, but can be slightly longer than even I thought it should be at 105 minutes. Still, well directed and acted.

Sergei Loznitsa's Donbass (2019) has its tales in 13 sections (a bad omen indeed) but I think because it has more material and people to deal with, it is a bit more effective overall, running 122 minutes. That it has its characters in the title locale, the city-bound nature of the screenplay has its creepy side intentionally and how they are being manipulated by modern media and much more. Like Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, that makes it more palpable and a little more successful than Roads, but by only so much. The two make an effective pair to view back to back, even having some dark humor at times.

Iryna Tsilyk's The Earth Is Blue As An Orange (2020) is a documentary from the same location that follows a mother and her four children, trying to deal with the uncertainty and instability of everyday life in a war zone. The children are interviewed and have some interesting and ironic observations without realizing it and the high stress all encounter is just dehumanizing and awful.

That leaves Valentyn Vasyanovych's Reflection (2019) as the only full-length drama, has a surgeon from Ukraine going to fight the Russians (pre-invasion) only to be captured by them, then used to take care of and monitor the many captured Ukraine soldiers that are being tortured, beaten, mutilated and worse. It gets ugly, but when he gets freed, he is not the same. A character study as relevant as when it was first released, it also effectively communicates the situation without holding back.

In all, these four releases have suddenly become more than curios, but films more people should have seen worldwide before the invasion, though human's inhumanity to its own is the age-old story that seems to be back with a vengeance. I was glad to see these films, remembering a man I never met who had a sign that stated 'Ukraine Yes' in the window of his business. I had heard about some of the troubles, but did not know the 'breadbasket of the world' was in this much trouble. He died before I could ask him more, not living to see Putin's atrocities now. But he knew what could happen and the horrors here and many more over the last few decades were more well known and turns out the spirit of his sign was more representative of the pride and strong identity of Ukraine than even I could have imagined.

That's a good thing!

The anamorphically enhanced image on all four DVDs are a little soft, with all in 2.35 X 1 framing, save Orange in 1.85 X 1. Color is drained a bit in Roads and a bit more pronounced in Donbass and Reflection, with Orange in between the two. These would all benefit from HD releases with lossless sound and have solid composition, but sometimes, they can be trying to watch in this format. All four also offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, with Donbass and Reflection (uncredited) adding lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 options. I liked the 2.0 Stereo on Reflection a bit better than the 5.1 upgrade, and it ties Donbass as the best-sounding of the four releases here. Orange does not suffer from much location audio issues.

Extras are the same four Original Theatrical Trailers for these four films on each disc, but that is all.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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