17-10-2019

Fear and Loathing in Luhansk

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Munich-based Ukrainian director Daria Onychenko reflects on the unbearable conditions of  the citizens of Luhansk, a Russia-occupied territory in Eastern Ukraine, with The Forgotten. The film centers on Nina (Maryna Koshkina), a Ukrainian woman whose husband is involved in a smuggling business. Wanting to leave the city, and yet unable to leave the husband, Nina undergoes a mandatory training program to convert her schoolteacher expertise into Russian. Cinematographer Erol Zubevic’s camera is fixed on Nina’s face and brings her inner world onto the screen. Her predicament worsens when she decides to help Andrii, a student who gets arrested for hanging a Ukrainian flag on the roof of the school.

The city and its institutions are systematically exploited by the Russian-backed regime. There’s a studio above Nina’s house where journalists fabricate fake news. The police are unfair and violent as they torture Maryna Koshkina’s character for getting Andrii out of prison. Russian acquaintances keep telling her Ukrainian is a farmer language. The loving affair she develops with the student is more influenced by her anger at injustice and intolerance than any real desire towards Andrii.

The Forgotten shines a light on the people nobody cares about - the forgotten people. Nina and her husband eventually make their way back to Kiev, but even there they’re refugees facing discrimination and negligence. The director asks us to face this infinite cycle of injustice making the world more and more desperate.