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exBlicks Special: Donbas(s) on Film

4 films – 4 original takes on the embattled region

Anne-Laure Bonnel:



Monday, 25 September, 7:00 pm

followed by Q&A with director Anne-Laure Bonnel

Documentary, France 2016, 57 min, written & directed by Anne-Laure Bonnel

Donbass (Dokumentarfilm)

In 2015, thirty-something French Bonnel accompanies a Ukrainian acquaintance to eastern separatist Ukraine and discovers the violent reality of a civil war. There, she captures the terrible images of a murderous conflict and a humanitarian disaster, as the Ukraine army tries to regain control over the Moscow-backed separatist territories. Bonnel travelled there three times between 2015 and 2016 – three two-week stays to gain the trust of the local population and film their daily lives.This is a unique firsthand footage from the war-torn ground, at a time few in the west knew or cared of the situation in Donbas(s).

Donbass was screened at Itinérances – Ales Film Festival and Amnesty’s human rights festival Au cinéma pour les droits humain. Praised as a rare and brave piece of independent war reporting upon its release in 2016, it was later dismissed as “pro-Russian propaganda” for exclusively showing the situation in zones under separatist control. Bonnel, who defends herself of supporting the Russian side and condemns the invasion, will travel from Paris to answer questions and explain her shooting conditions.

Born in southeastern France in 1978, Anne-Laure Bonnel studied production and film direction at Sorbonne University. She taught Audio/Video design and production for 15 years (University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne) and worked in TV production, before breaking out as a war documentary filmmaker with Donbass, followed by Silence in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, and Donbass, huit ans après in 2022. She’s currently editing her latest footage from the region, where she travelled for the fifth time in November last year.

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exBlicks Special: Donbas(s) on Film

4 films – 4 original takes on the embattled region

a mini festival curated and hosted by Nadja Vancauwen­berghe

25+26 September

Extreme Park

Who cared or even knew much about Donbas(s) until Putin’s invasion of Ukraine brought the Russian-speaking border region to the news agenda?

February 24, 2022, marked the beginning of a war that has caused millions of people to flee their homes, more casualties than meets the media eye (200,000 on both sides) and a global geopolitical realignment along the conflict divide.

But for the people of Donbas(s), war began in 2014 when Kyiv’s military forces sought to crack down on the Russia-backed separatist unrest in the country’s eastern provinces. By February 2022, the fighting had already killed 14,000 and forced millions to flee.

Today, the shell-blasted, mined-filled and trench-marked landscape of Donbas(s) bears witness to the physical ravages of a murderous conflict.

But the region is also an ideological minefield: loyalty-torn, partially Russian-occupied, the Donbas(s) has been at the heart of a propaganda war in which (social) media have been powerful tools in further polarising minds along irreconcilable extremes.

Today there are at least two Donbasses – the region’s very spelling supposed to give away one’s allegiance to one side or the other. It’s Donbas if you mean to show support to Ukraine. But then again Sergei Loznitsa’s film is titled Donbass, although its maker is an outspoken Ukraine/Zelensky supporter.

This mini film festival is not attempting to bring truths or take sides. We humbly rely on the power of cinema and firsthand accounts to shed light on an underreported part of the Ukraine conflict.

The programme is eclectic: four takes on one war by four filmmakers with little in common but their bafflement and horror at how violence broke out and wrecked this part of Ukraine.

Whether small docs or award-winning fiction, their films bear witness to the human tragedy that has been unfolding in Donbas(s) since 2014, years before Putin’s invasion finally brought the region’s plight to Western media’s attention.

As usual, the screenings will be followed by Q&As with filmmakers, while special guests will help bring context and answer questions.

We hope for lively discussions, to be continued in the Kino foyer over (Georgian) wine!

ExBlicks – A monthly Film & Chat Series in English
curated by Nadja Vancauwenberghe in cooperation with Lichtblick-Kino

Watch German and foreign films and meet the people who make them in a real Kiez Kino!
All screenings with English subtitles, followed by Q&As in English with the filmmakers – and a customary glass of wine after the screenings!


Fr 01.12.

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Fr 08.12.

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Fr 15.12.

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Fr 22.12.

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Sa 23.12.

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So 24.12.

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Mo 25.12.

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Fr 29.12.

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Sa 30.12.

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So 31.12.

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