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June 28, 2022

Sniper: The White Raven


Marian Bushan - 2022
Well Go USA

Marian Bushan's film ends in a scene taking place just last February. I can only assume that while he may not have anticipated a renewed war between Ukraine and Russia, tensions between the two countries was enough to keep the military on high alert status. There is also some bit of irony that this film, supported in part by Ukrainian government entities, has not been released in its home country at this time. Unlike some other Ukrainian films, this has been made primarily for a mainstream audience.

The film begins in 2014, at the time Russia annexed Crimea. Mykola is a physics professor at a small college near the Russian-Ukraine border. He also is an ecologist, living with his wife off the grid in a small hut. His wife is an artist of wood carvings. Mykola is an avowed pacifist with a peace sign made of white rocks outside his home. A pair of Russians from a paramilitary group that crosses the border come to Mykola's home, after questioning their identities, they burn down the hut. Mykola's wife is shot attempting to throw a stone at the two men. Mykola, found by two Ukrainian guerrillas, renounces his pacifism, moving from a volunteer outfit to a sniper outfit. Mykola carries with him a small angel carved by his wife.

Anybody who does not have any basic knowledge of the Russian-Ukraine conflict in the past decade is not going to learn more here. This is a Ukrainian film primarily made for the home audience. What I did find interesting is that for a nationalistic film, there is some nuance to be found. That there are Ukrainians who have sided with Russia is acknowledged as is the sense that which ever side one takes has its consequences. The music during the last major fight scene can almost be described as elegiac. War is not presented as something celebratory, but as a source of almost constant mourning for loss of friends and family.

The film is Bushan's debut making a theatrical feature. His previous film was a television documentary on a Romanian football coach. Part of the sequence of Mykola in training suggests the influence of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket in some of the shots, minus the satirical edge. Pavlo Aldoshyn was primarily a supporting actor in television mini-series prior to having the lead role here. He is also a singer which has also been incorporated into the film.

Sniper: The White Raven will have a limited theatrical release simultaneous to its availability on VOD platforms.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 28, 2022 05:36 AM