Seamlessly divided into 13 segments, ‘Donbass’ recounts the corrosive nature of the conflict pitting Ukrainian nationalists against supporters of Russia’s proxy Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine. No one comes out clean, but how could they, when years of manipulation have malignantly stirred animosities on both sides?
The time period is 2014-15, although it is unlikely much has changed in a region lacking basic infrastructure and shredded by acrimony. Notwithstanding the film’s unmistakable thematic cohesion, its piecemeal structure means that viewers will feel battered with each successive scene, knowing full well that the storyline to come will lead to yet another episode of increased intensity.
Corruption and humiliation are the guiding forces of ‘Donbass,’ resulting in a scathing portrait of a society where human interaction has descended to a level of barbarity more in keeping with late antiquity than the so-called contemporary civilized world.