How film-making can contribute to a collective consciousness against war

by Marichka Lukianchuk

As a witness of the war in my home country, Ukraine, and an  artist / filmmaker, who now knows what war is from the inside, I had an inner urge to gather the thoughts that were in my head over these weeks that changed my life, in order to heal and to remind myself of my place. I framed my article around the notion of collective consciousness with regard to finding a common social ground, values, imaginary and stories that can create the base of future development of human thought and psyche against war. The main focus is on the ways film-making can contribute to such development and to the directions it can take in war times, as I truly believe in the great opportunities that film-making provides us with to shape the collective consciousness and to make the world a better, more equal and peaceful place. This potential is based in the nature of film-making itself. In this  article, I want to highlight just a few dimensions of it.


Film as dialogue

I believe that people do not just “want to make films”, they want to say something, as art  itself is also always a dialogue—with oneself, with other people, and also with different  generations across time and history. I like the quote by Hayao Miyazaki “You have to be  determined to change the world with your film, even though nothing changes”. When I  taught an art film course for children, I used to repeat this phrase, stressing that film-making actually changes something. If the film reaches at least one person, or one hundred, or one million people, makes them feel, rethink towards a more conscious spiritual  path—it’s already worth making a film.



To make a film is to tell a story

We live with, through and by stories. We make stories alive, and they keep us alive, it’s a  two-way process. For example, I can tell you a story of my French teacher: during the  first week of war she got stuck in her own house in a  village near Kiev, where the Russian occupiers would kill innocent people, they would run into their homes and mock  them, making them kneel and ask for mercy. She managed to get to a safer place after  running for days through the forest, as the road was blocked. When she finally managed to escape ,  she invited us to continue classes, as she knew the emotional importance of getting  something back from our prior lives. This can become a story of endurance, of persistence, of love for life—this can be the starting point for a film, and now each Ukrainian has a  story worth making a film.

Some stories make us grow and become better people, do what we thought to be impossible. Other ones  make us kill and destroy. What happens now in Russia  is a domination of the second kind of story. And film-making, in my opinion, provides endless opportunities for telling the stories that are worth telling, and for reaching people with them.



Film as response to the human need for guiding points

We struggle to admit  that in this world we are rather like lost kids in the big shopping mall  than the members of the superior species that rules over nature. We search for the ways not to feel  alone in this world, to relate to something bigger than ourselves, in everything we do—politics, religions, even wars. We need guiding points, values and ideals for living,  and we are always seeking a sense of our life to live. Art is another great way to make sense and reach beyond ourselves. In this case, by art I mean  modes of creation that are about searching for a deeper and more conscious life, for comprehending the world: inner and outer. On this instance, artists can be seen as guides that strive to reach deeper levels of existence, give their variations of responses to eternal human’s questions and show them to society. These are our ways to contribute to a collective consciousness, to create the exchange of wisdom and knowledge between generations and within history, and to  guide people through the necessary inner transitions, from moments of uncertainty to moments of clarity, helping to overcome struggles, showing what to leave behind and  what to give space for. That is how art becomes a bridge  between reflection, action, and prevision. I consider it important for us, film-makers, to understand and take responsibility for it in our practise.


Film-making as art and as unity of all arts

Now video is everywhere—it is the medium for commercial communication as well as  a form of entertainment. Its social, spiritual, and psychological functions however are mostly neglected. Film-making is the unique form of art that by nature unites in itself two  essential factors for a global change: (1) film-making is the unity of many people while  creating a film, it enables them to become involved and transformed  in the process (2)  film-making is the unity of all arts. A friend of mine once said: as cinema unites all kinds of art, perhaps it has the power to unite all nations.



Artistic truth

I believe that film communicates with the audience through truth and trust. When I began  to see all films as real-life-based, no matter if they have been written as “based on real story” or not, it  changed my whole perception. The point is that at the core of each film is the psychological truth that then gets artistically transformed—a human’s real-life experience  base that creates the depth to which people can relate, otherwise it just doesn’t work and  the audience can never be fooled. In a way, each film is a sort of statement: “I believe that life is like that”, at that point in time for its maker, who needs to take full moral responsibility for it. For me, film-making is the main motivation to become a better, healthier person. I’m always motivated by asking: How can I communicate with many people through my films, if I’m not ready to do the right thing or to say the right thing to one person, even to myself, in my life?



Film-making in times of war 

To some extent, art can be outside of politics, but it cannot be outside of war—this is the position I relate to as a person who lives through wartime. I know that everything that I will create in the  next few years in some way will relate to war, or will be perceived as such, whether I intend it or not. Creating something unrelated to war will also be a choice of not facing it or imagining the life without it. War puts a mark on us deep inside, and it does the same with our works.

For example, during the last peaceful evening with the children I was teaching—ten hours before  the war started—we made a video about friendship, based on acceptance and respect for the difference of another person. While editing it, I realized how relevant it is now, as we are dealing with the aggression from the country that would never accept our  independence, history, culture, values, and path. Everything that was before feels surreal, but it will always be essential. We had friendship, we had love and we had art. And we will embrace it, make it stronger, as now we know the value of it. This is how this  simple video made by children became a statement under war conditions.



Collective (un)consciousness

Cinema is a frame on the reality that enhances and embraces the parts it chooses to be  on the screen. And so does war: it makes characters appear on the border, all the  beautiful and ugly sides pushed to their limits. In the dark times we feel everything  subconscious, metaphorical and deep stronger than usual. And the line between real and  surreal, possible and impossible, becomes almost invisible. In our turbulent times, the film world will have an important mission, many things will be rethought, in particular through  the change of values. I believe that the big importance should be given to the inner world  of war: what in us, humans, provokes us to repeat the same circles of creation and  destruction, what makes us choose to destroy and to kill? As all wars have a common nature and similar development , I believe that change can come  only from within: we need to have a deep understanding of both wars and humans  psychologically, and especially the unconscious parts of our psyche, as well as we need  to learn our lessons from the history.

It’s a lot to process what one’s psyche is going through during the war, what we feel, and  how we think. When the war started, I began collecting the dreams of Ukrainians.  Through dreams, motifs, and symbols that repeat, I see not only the reflection of inner  world of individuals but also of the new history of the nation. Therefore, I am searching for  connections between the war and the inner self.



“It’s like in a film”

When we undergo very stressful and unimaginable situations, we get a feeling that it is  like in a movie; what is then left for film-making in times when our reality becomes a film  we would never wish to watch?

I heard the phrase ‘it is like in a film’ from almost every friend I talked to during the first week of war, I got this feeling myself—the entire first day of war I lived as if I was in a film, imagining myself on the screen, trying to remember what the film characters do in such circumstances. It is especially relevant for young generations, because we are used to watching shocking content and cruelty on TV and in cinema, and when facing it in real life, we feel the absence of the screen. Nowadays wars are influenced by technology, and the information is perceived as weapon. Each second we know what happened and where because of witnesses filming and taking pictures and people on social media sharing them—reality now documents itself faster than ever. People, who did not go through war themselves, again see it through the screen.

So, what is left for film-making in times when our reality becomes a film we would never  wish to watch? In some way, the answer to this question I am searching now, working on  my next short film during the residency at Harun Farocki Institut.



Film-making and global empathy  

On the global level, I believe that change can come only from within and is directly  connected to the development of empathy. From the beginning of human’s existence we  can see its gradual development: from an empathy to one’s closest person, one’s tribe,  one’s settlement, one’s country—towards its globalization. It is influenced by many

factors: the experience of a world war being one of them, but also the development of  technology, the increase of traveling and migration, and global access to news, art and films. However, technology and science are developing faster than human’s psyche, therefore  they can’t be perceived as ends, but only as means that can be used for the good or for the bad, for creation or for destruction. I believe that when we develop global empathy, based  on understanding of us being all equal humans prior to nationality and so on, the wars will  stop.

On a personal level, people who have gone through a war feel a wall between themselves  and others, for whom war is something from the news. I think that these walls can be broken only by way of empathy, and I see an important mission of film-making (and art in general) in the contribution to the development of global and personal empathy.

The images accompanying this text have been taken from the short film Between before and after /war/, made by Marichka Lukianchuk in March 2022 in response to the war, using footage from a video by herself and Elena Baronnikova shot in 2020, yet not finalized at the time.

Marichka Lukianchuk is a visual artist and a film-maker from Ukraine who also works collaboratively. In 2021 she graduated from Interdisciplinary Arts studies at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. Her short films Past Future Mountain and Spiderweb for Shelter and Hunt were featured in international film festivals. Lukianchuk is currently holding a residency at Harun Farocki Institut, facilitated with the support of Artists at Risk.


April 14th, 2022 — Rosa Mercedes / 05

The Reconstruction of Ukraine. Ruination / Representation / Solidarity, online symposium, September 9-11, 2022. “The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity” devotes particular attention to cities, architecture, art, culture and psychological trauma – but the scope of the conversations it aims to start is broader. In due course, the discussions held during the symposium may coalesce into myriad projects, initiatives and experiments undertaken by government institutions, municipalities, educational and cultural bodies and other more interstitial actors. The ambition of this symposium is to establish a platform for dialogue, facilitating communication, collaboration and constructive argument between diverse actors and initiatives.

George Edwards (Zetkin Collective) on war, nationalism and the “anti-climate lobby” (via Arts of the Working Class): “The latest prognosis of this particular war was spelt out in a flurry of reports from the IPCC; the most recent, described as ‘an atlas of human suffering’ by the chief of the UN, demanded ‘rapid, deep and immediate’ emissions cuts in all sectors to ensure an inhabitable planet for all. In step with the science, many wish this conflict to mark the beginning of an intensified programme of decarbonization, ridding economies of not only Russian, but all fossil fuels, wherever their geological source. But whilst political leaders scramble abroad to secure new sources of fossil fuels – sweet-talking sheiks and summoning LNG terminals from the ground – a resourceful and committed cohort, let’s call them the anti-climate lobby, refuse to accept this diagnosis. The partakers in the fossil industry have seized upon this crisis, sensing it as an opportunity to enlarge and entrench economic interests rooted in fossil fuels. As the course of action prescribed by the IPCC imperils this line of business, the attempts to secure fresh investments in fossil fuel infrastructures, to lock-in production and secure profits for the coming decades may feel all the more pressing. The solutions they pose also fit within the national frame and it is with nationalist political forces that they find their most ardent allies.”

July 31st, 2022

The fundamental difference that we face in Europe at the moment between the Western approach characterized by the pursuit of peace and the Eastern one focused on liberation and independence poses a dramatic challenge – in order to survive and progress, democracy as a political regime has to be capable of defending itself also in a military way.” Armed Democracy revolves around the concepts of imperialism, liberation, fascism, autocracy, revolution, and militarization in pursuit of the world to come on Europe’s burnt out land. Conceived by the Kyiv Biennial and Biennale Warszawa from the East Europe Biennial Alliance, this special public program, curated by Vasyl Cherepanyn within the 2nd edition of Biennale Warszawa, the program is a first part of the series organized by the East Europe Biennial Alliance discussing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and taking place in Warsaw, Prague, Kassel, and Riga over the summer and fall of 2022.

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022
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