Nick Holdsworth
Journalist, writer, author, filmmaker and film and TV industry expert – Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.

Covering a tragic struggle, this documentary shows stark footage of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict from a partisan, though compelling, viewpoint.

War for peace

Yevhen Titarenko

Ukraine, 2017 93 minutes

Documentary filmmakers chronicling the current events in eastern Ukraine will not find a consensus of viewpoints. The ugly conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces has claimed more than 10,000 lives since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean territory in March 2014. The source of visual materials available, the perspective (from the government or the rebel side), the tone, none of this can ever be neutral and War for Peace is no exception.

Not Safe to Screen

The film had been destined to have its Russian premiere in December at Artdocfest, acclaimed Ukrainian-born documentary director Vitaly Mansky’s Moscow-based film festival. However, at the festival there was a violent disruption of the screening of Beata Bubenets’ Bullet’s Flight, another film about the Ukrainian conflict. Bullet’s Flight chronicles the combat operations of the controversial Aidar battalion, now disbanded after being accused by Amnesty International of war crimes. War for Peace, which also features interviews with members of the Aidar battalion, was pulled from the Artdocfest programme even though its producers had found a ‘safe territory’ (the Czech Republic’s embassy in Moscow) to screen it.

War for Peace (its Russian language title Voina radi mira actually means ‘war for the sake of peace’) is arguable slightly less controversial than Bullet’s Flight (in Russian Polyot puli) given that it follows medics whose duty is to save lives. However, that was not likely to quell the fevered emotions of the pro-separatist protestors from Russia’s nationalist group SERB (South-East Radical Bloc) who swarmed into Moscow’s Oktyabr cinema early December during the Bullet’s Flight screening, draped a coat over the projector and released a noxious gas into the screening hall.

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