“Slava Ukraini” (“Glory to Ukraine”)
Rotten Tomatoes (4/5), Metacritic (8/10), Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (8/10)
Most media coverage about the war in Ukraine – where most of us get our news about the conflict – comes down to a recitation of facts and figures, with the biggest and most dramatic stories receiving virtually all of the attention. But how does the war impact the nation’s citizens at the personal level? What’s more, we hear so much about the unity of Ukraine’s residents in combatting their Russian foes, but in what ways does that commitment materialize? Those are the questions that French writer-director-philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has sought to address in his thoughtful new first-person documentary about how the hostilities have affected the country’s civilians, soldiers, laborers and spiritual leaders. Through these individual stories, viewers learn of their triumphs, tragedies, hopes and dreams, not to mention their unwavering faith that Ukraine will emerge victorious, especially in the wake of a growing number of battlefield successes. Told as a sort of travelogue through the nation’s various hot spots, including many on the front lines of the conflict, Lévy chronicles what has happened across Ukraine since the war’s onset in February 2022, oftentimes brought down to a touching, intimately personal level. This is enhanced by the filmmaker’s poetic narration, which, despite an occasional tendency to get a little too flowery and obscure in nature, puts these events into meaningful perspective, both in terms of what they mean for individuals and in larger terms morally and geopolitically. These observations draw significantly from history, showing parallels between the events in Ukraine and those that have unfolded on other conflict stages over the years, reminding us once again of the importance of learning from the past. When taken together, these elements combine to create a documentary that doesn’t fit the standard mold but that enlightens us to a far greater degree than many other films addressing the subject of warfare. “Slava Ukraini” provides valuable insight into an event that has the potential to leave a significant and long-lasting impact not just on the residents of Ukraine and its neighbors but on the totality of humanity as well.