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Oleg, a feisty ten-year-old Ukrainian boy, lives near the frontlines of the war between Russian-led separatists and Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine. This searching and haunting documentary immerses us in a year of his existence. An orphan, he lives with his loving grandmother, who is reluctant to leave Hnutove, despite the rural village’s dwindling number of inhabitants. He hangs out with his younger cousin Yarick, sometimes accompanied by the older and slightly alarming Kostya, initially unmindful of danger and revelling in adventures characteristic of country boys their age anywhere else in the world.
As the sound of explosions and the whistling of shells draw closer, more people leave and his beloved babushka’s resilience is also severely put to the test. The angel-faced boy becomes increasingly wary. He surveys his old playground, checking for landmines. But play is for kids anyhow. “We’re men,” he says. “We have to be able to endure everything.” — SR
“The film is about how people deal with the cracks in illusion and about the human drive we have to survive no matter what. How, even amidst the most impossible circumstances, we build illusionary worlds for ourselves in which we can find comfort and warmth, because we can't exist for long in chaos. Even if the illusion is demolished over and over again, we still keep building it back up again. That kind of tenacity is incredibly beautiful to me.” — Simon Lereng Wilmont