Programmed by Gabrielle Ouimet
Best Documentary Film Prize 2019 - Mariupol Film Festival, Ukraine
The Donbas region, a large coal basin in the east of Ukraine, has been the scene of conflict and upheaval for over a century. Considered an object of Soviet propaganda, Enthusiasm: The Symphony Of Donbas (1931) directed by Dziga Vertov depicts a thrilling life guided by the strong economic growth of the region, where enthusiasm and work meet, while in reality, the daily life of the miners, represented as true heroes, was strewn with lies and manipulation. It is the story of decline and of a century of propaganda, where a symphony turns into a cacophony.
A word from Tënk
Minaev’s Cacophony of Donbas is an essential primer not so much on the region itself but on its various representations throughout the decades. One of the films’ threads posits that the years of insolent Soviet propaganda led to a breaking point, forcing tens of thousands of coal miners to protest on the streets with their demands for the Central Committee. The working conditions in the mines have been historically some of the worst in the world. Decentralized self-organization was seen by many as essential, contributing to the bid for Ukraine's independence. Unfortunately Minaev does not address the grossly neglected standards and the collapse of the industry during the nineties in independent Ukraine, and the essentially criminal rule of Leonid Kuchma.
As the film maneuvers from one absurdist piece of propaganda archival footage after the other, you can’t help but feel that Soviet Socialism was operating on a scale of schizophrenia FOX News can only muster in its vilest of fantasies. The procession of the grotesque culminates in talking head-style interviews with people who were victims of the Russian-sponsored separatist movement. The endless lies, betrayals, and brutalities sit neatly in the context of the violences of the last century: the revolution of 1917, the Civil War, dekulakization, the Holodomor, the Second World War. The collapse of the myth(s) lead to new myths, and to renewed violence.
Artist, Filmmaker, Photographer