When all flee, I’ll be there!

New cinema project 2020. Deserted Country which is discussed and which sometimes drives people mad, depicts a magnificent picture of our future: there are only eight inhabitants left in the picturesque Ukrainian land.

In February 2018, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin said, “Only in the last 2017 year more than a million Ukrainians left Ukraine. Look, when 100 thousand Ukrainians leave Ukraine monthly, the question isn’t only about high salaries “there” but about the understanding of future and the quality of life”.

In November 2018, a very young Ukrainian filmmaker Korniy Hrytsyuk released a film in the mockumentary genre. Basically, about the understanding of “future” and “the quality of life”. In case all leave Ukraine.

The film 2020. Deserted Country stirred the blood of the local creative and audience circles. Because, oh miracle, even without the support of Ukrainian State Cinema Agency and other respective departments, a young filmmaker (with huge horn-rimmed glasses on) created his pseudo-documentary story the length of which is 1 hour 10 minutes – for 10 thousand hryvnias. And during this screen time and for this tiny money he unfolded a nearly post-apocalyptic picture of Ukrainian humanitarian future, which, evidently, has been hinted by Mr Klimkin.

What is this kind of future dated 2020? I mean, the year, which is so close?

Усі втечуть, а я залишусь!

Shot from the film 2020. Deserted Country

The filmmaker and his co-authors think that our country could become “uninhabited” in the nearest future. If the families, working teams, together or separately, torrentially leave the country. And it will be no longer “Bleeding” (the name of a resonance article of Yuliia Mostovaya on this subject) but a complete exsanguinating of the whole body.

Consider, this is the same “exsanguinating” which is depicted by the filmmaker with his slightly trembling camera (as if he’s an apostle of well-known Dogma). From the perspective of a real director and an “internal” director (who acts within the mockumentary system), we see a charming territory, flourishing land which instantly got rid of all its inhabitants as a result of former international treaties. That is, its arteries, veins, eyes, legs, hands, ears.

Nightmare, an absolute wasteland. Everyone found happiness far away abroad. And now in a dazzling desert, there’re only eight weirds left. A girl-model who has nobody to compete with for the first place on the catwalk of beauty. A middle-aged professor (performed by the actor of Frankivsk Theatre Oleksiy Petuhov) who in a bubbly voice misses the past and reflects on the specifics of body restoration.

There’s some lost “separatist”, who searches “Ukrainian patriots” but can’t find them even with a candle in broad daylight because they, for sure, left for prosperous villages. There’s a colourful image of a deputy of State Statistics Service of Ukraine who is stuck in her papers, reports, documents and she literally got rooted to this paper factory and refuses to break up with her earth Chancellery because she hopes that everyone will be back soon – well, then certain “fake IDs” will be in demand. She’s an optimist.

There’re some wondering stars as well – IT specialist, blogger, businessman, who seems to be trapped in some modified cinema version of the Hunger Games franchise and can’t come up with solution whom to play in this mysterious land, whether a game territory or a ghostly reality?

Усі втечуть, а я залишусь!

Shot from the film 2020. Deserted Country

And something more – it’s important. Pseudo-president Taras Voitenko, who won the election races in 2018, in “2020” is performed by a famous journalist Andriy Kulykov. However, “performs” isn’t an acute term, he seems to play along with the filmmaker, sincerely shares his scathing sarcasm, his concern for the state, for our bright future. Actually, Voitenko as a film figure did his utmost to open the doors, windows, bolts – to let everyone in. He wanted the better, but it turned out interesting.

So, a fellow with a horn-rimmed glasses on (the filmmaker himself) creates his pseudo-documentary world, apart from the play (Kulikov’s, Petukhov’s and others) and a ghostly reality, which is approaching like a daunting swirl, fatal inevitability, State Statistics Service reports, Klimkin’s quotes, broken borders, phantasmagoric wasteland. That is, someone is admired by “yesterday” and someone is anxious about it

And may the artistic figures of this cinema project and great professional artists, in particular, excuse me, but a special infernal tension appears on the screen at the moment when Hrytsiuk from time to time gives a picture-picture-picture of a wonderful wasteland itself. Countries Zero, lands without farmers, streets without pedestrians. And then his cheap camera as if sticks to these landscapes and for long doesn’t want to tear its tearful eyes away from them. Because the land itself as if crying – waiting for somebody. Empty cities got stiff, amazed at the absence of the payers for household services. Here and there, old dogs are limping. A buffleheaded lost “separatists” is still wandering by the labyrinths of fatal emptiness (where are the “enemies”?). After a while, the land itself looks crumbled – post-industrial landscapes across it, freed from the production process because a deserted territory (in author’s sight) waits not for people’s coming but robot’s.

Dystopia, which foresees the motives of dehumanization of society, predicts catastrophic consequences which are caused by inadequate human and individual society activity. Dystopia as a genre tolls the bell to attract attention to dramas which soon could become tragedies.

Усі втечуть, а я залишусь!

Shot from the film 2020. Deserted Country

It is anchored in 2020. Deserted Country – this is our first small, phantasmagorically cheap (the budget of the film) pseudo-documentary dystopia. Which is created by the means – let them be unpretentious, sometimes very gullible, somewhere with sincere, purely elementary, maximalism frankness.

Additionally, I must admit that already mentioned in this text term “mockumentary” seems to enter the “blood circulation” of our new feature-film cinema for the first time. Actually, the mockumentary is about events that haven’t taken place yet but the authors think that this movement will be speedy and consecutive, and then this “mockumentary” will be instantly transformed into purely documentary film. So, the reverse order is also possible.

In my opinion, the specifics of such a project is by far not in its cinematographic peculiarities (we’ve seen different) but in a so-called youth’s hooligan dashing “usurpation” of an important topic which hurts many because it’s bleeding.

And really, this topic (problem) seems to maximally justify the artistic idea or even its realization or even a frankly primitive storytelling manner. And even with a certain artistic clumsiness, this film expresses its sincerity and concern.

Concern on the edge of provocation.

That’s why it isn’t a surprise that the author has been already blamed for “non-patriotic mood”.

However, in this question, the perspective, from which the problem is seen, is also important.

If you keep silent and condescendingly hum, watching how the blood flows – is it, apparently, patriotism?

If you toll the bell because this bell tolls for you too, if you stir up the public discourse with these gullible means of cinematographic expressiveness to search for the means or donors to stop the bleeding – isn’t it patriotism?

I’ll stress one more time, in the big human world, from time immemorial, long before us, dystopia has been perceived as a warning. As a signal for reflection and as an incitement to take action. And here it’s useless to look back at the outstanding examples of “dystopian” direction (for example, City of Endless Night, War with the Newts, We, 1984, etc.), here it’s important to talk louder – about the danger. About the wound that doesn’t heal.

By the way, in a wonderful modernized cinema hall “Zhovten”, I was the only one on the daytime session of 2020. Deserted Country when there were only seven spectators in the hall.

The eighth was me.

Oleh Verhelis

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