In the opening month of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, 1 / 4 of the inhabitants sought sanctuary elsewhere. Help organisations estimate that as many as 5 million folks deserted their houses and fled west for the border. No less than 400 went in Maciek Hamela’s van.
Hamela is a 40-year-old documentary film-maker from Warsaw. The van was a Volkswagen Caravelle, rented from a neighborhood Vietnamese household who wished to assist out. In February and March final 12 months, Hamela and his good friend, cameraman Piotr Grawender, made dozens of return journeys to Ukraine, liaising with volunteer teams and ferrying the evacuees into Poland. They advised him their tales; he put them on movie.
Within the Rearview, which screens within the Acid sidebar on the Cannes film festival, is a gripping social doc, a no-frills portrait of human migration that confines the majority of the motion to the again of the van. It reveals us the folks and eavesdrops on their chatter. We hear from the aged farmer’s spouse who’s pining for her favorite cow and the middle-aged girl who carries a photograph of her grandfather holding a butterfly. “I come from an aristocratic household,” she says sadly. “Now I’m only a travelling frog.”
Hamela says his principal intention was to get his passengers out safely. The thought for the movie solely got here later and wanted to be dealt with with care. Individuals had been made conscious of the digicam when boarding the automobile, however weren’t handed consent varieties till they’d arrived in Poland. It was essential, he explains, to by no means give the impression that showing within the movie was one way or the other a situation of passage.
Just one girl stated no. Everybody else signed the shape. “They had been blissful to share their testimonies with the world. As a result of that they had no concept what folks outdoors Ukraine and Russia had been pondering. That was their first motivation – they wished their accounts to be heard. However there was a second motivation that I didn’t anticipate at first, and it was that individuals wished to provide again to me personally. I had introduced them out and so they didn’t know how you can pay me again.”
Hamela’s preliminary intention was to fold his missions in with a wider documentary on the struggle. However he was impressed by Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten, the story of a taxi-driver’s journeys by means of Tehran, and determined to maintain the main target as tight as potential – to let the folks inform the story and use the van’s inside as a sort of travelling theatre, or a confession field.
The route leads by means of abandoned cities, previous charred tanks and derelict petrol stations. A number of bridges have been bombed; the van is continually having to search out various paths to the west. Alongside the way in which we encounter Gloria, a Congolese businesswoman who has been shot within the abdomen and leg and requires emergency care. We’re launched to five-year-old Sofika, who clutches a folded piece of paper that bears her mother and father’ names and numbers. The van crosses the Dnieper River; the kids mistake it for the ocean. They are saying: “This summer season we’ll come again right here and leap within the water.”
Among the passengers are clearly traumatised. Others get by on a weight loss program of gallows humour. One girl recounts the story of a terrified teenage refugee who was stopped at a checkpoint and compelled to hitch the Russian military. The child was shaking so arduous he might barely put the uniform on. “It might sound humorous now,” she says, “however we had been crying then.”
Hamela stays deeply concerned within the evacuation effort and plans to tour the movie to boost funds. This week, although, he’s in Cannes, amid the celebrities and the yachts and the posh beachfront resorts. That comes with the territory; it’s the basic competition paradox. Cannes gives an enormous stage to rail towards social injustice and human rights violations. However the stage is erected in a sunny oligarchs’ playground.
I counsel that this should really feel like a clumsy cut price. “Sure,” he says. “However pay attention, cut price all the time is determined by negotiation. And also you negotiate properly when you have sure traces you received’t cross. So I’m undoubtedly not going to step aboard any yacht. And I’m not going to step on the purple carpet both.” As a substitute, he has introduced his personal, salvaged from a ruined home in Ukraine and itself barely tattered. The proprietor, he provides, ultimately desires it again.
What grew to become of the passengers as soon as they climbed out of the van? Most he’s saved tabs on; just a few have disappeared. Hamela tells me that Gloria, the injured Congolese businesswoman, is presently recovering in Berlin. She has undergone 18 operations and nonetheless has three to go. Sofika, the lady with the folded sheet of paper, lives along with her household in a Warsaw refugee centre. As for Larisa, the one-time aristocrat, she flew to Spain to make a contemporary begin, solely to determine she didn’t prefer it there in any case. She’s now primarily based in France and took the practice to see him. “The travelling frog,” says Hamela. “She’s right here with me in Cannes.”