“It’s not a war anymore, it’s a crime”.
This is one of the many outcomes Anya expresses in Janek Ambros‘ short film Ukranians in Exile. Using a 7 minute statement, she describes the effects of the inexplicable and unjustifiable, a war in modern times. Her voice pleads and plaintively tries to draw a picture of how the conflict is lived from the inside. She’s distant from communicating her stance in regards to heroes or villains. There’s nothing but death and destruction. They have lost. We all have.
The timeline in Ambros’ film isn’t clear. It’s not necessary to stay within a chronological logic because the short documentary isn’t aiming to inform about a war the media has communicated plenty about. She isn’t an authority. But there’s no need for one now. This is a picture of humanity facing the extreme and the unimaginable: fleeing from the country you were born in because of the hunger for power someone fantasizes about. They are victims and Anya simply speaks about being one in a modern society that thinks it’s more important to tweet or post, than to plainly question what is essentially bad.
Ukranians in Exile is an important statement, but it wouldn’t be one without a visual language that Ambros should really feel proud about. Anya does not have a face because her desperate claim is that of thousands of prisoners of the most important conflict in the last 50 years. Ambros could be linear about a compelling message and simply film her for a couple of minutes. Instead he wanders through the streets of a nation in peril and focuses the camera on Ukranians who will find themselves on the move for the near future. They never stop looking for hope, or a way out of a physical Hell Russia has created out of greed.
Again, this isn’t a film for determining who’s right or wrong, albeit the logical explanation of who actually is. Ukranians in Exile is a swift glance into the insides of a machine created by power, and whose parts are represented by people who have become refugees out of necessity. Ambros has entered the territory and managed to take a look before extermination. His camera crumbles out of a tremor caused by fear and the inevitable materialization of a monster’s hunger.