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At the very heart of the news was a report that Russian forces had begun to move into Ukraine, which happened on February 24th, 2022. The most massive assault against any European country since WWII by “these continuous and aggressive actions” towards Ukraine has been described as a war crime. One week later but surprisingly Russia did not, on March 4th, have a cruel attack on one town in Ukraine by its military Vladimir Putin. About five hundred innocent people died over a series of war crimes called the Bucha massacre.

It was finally in late March that the Russian offensive was forced to retreat from that city as a result of brave stances taken by the defenders. Such a shocking event must never be forgotten or overlooked for it is chillingly unforgettable! Not only have the Ukrainian Armed Forces been deeply involved in defending Bucha, but it has also become known that some other individuals put themselves at risk daily for rapid evacuation of trapped civilians from these dangerous regions. Tiunov’s movie, named as such after one of these courageous people he is going to show us in his latest film titled Bucha while trying to make everyone understand how desperate times were during Russians’ invasion.

His first fictional film set in Ukraine since the invasion began tells about Konstantin Gudauskas (or Kazakhstan Konstantin according to him), played by Polish actor Cezary Lukaszewicz. The asylum granted Gudauskas years ago in Ukraine is an essential context which provided background information quite quickly through this movie. From that moment onwards, there were no longer any restrictions upon his international mobility.

A total of more than two hundred individuals were moved out of Russian-occupied territory and back home via “the angel of salvation” who used her unique powers when they were needed most.“ Even if just based upon such an individual’s story alone it sounds like both an inspiring biographical drama already; however, we should not forget that this is a movie about war, and, by definition, war is terrifying. Thus, Bucha could be seen as a shocking movie, even if the most disturbing scenes are shown off screen with an insight into how people affectively respond to what happened.

Still though he does in the course of the film become a strong and inspiring hero, Konstantin’s path is still beset by the horrors of a relentless war. Such troubling sequences (in whatever way they are presented) actually help give Bucha its raw and unflinching realism. It was almost like each one built up on suspense from the previous event.

Vyacheslav Dovzhenko plays Strelnikov, the Russian military leader who orchestrates many of these devastating scenes. There’s nothing more frightening than him: he doesn’t want any hitches in his invasion plan but will do anything to prevent them from happening. While Dovzhenko shows his character’s brutal savagery which sometimes reminds animal’s behavior, he does not exaggerate or make it a caricature-like villain. The inevitable battle between Strelnikov and Konstantin becomes much more exciting due to their different motivations, ideals and acting styles though one may argue that there are many similar thrilling moments throughout it that have been anticipated earlier.

Some people might say that it is early to release a film such as Bucha. Yet, after over two years since that day, Ukraine is still at war, fighting to protect its sovereignty from Russian invaders. However, an emotionally arresting film like this one has a great political and cultural importance for providing the context of the beginning of an ongoing violent conflict. Yes, story’s trajectory technically swerves out of Bucha sometimes and the film flirts with naked propaganda but Oleksandr Shchur also tried his best to make it feel authentic.

Bucha easily becomes a powerful film through balancing a brutal and unforgiving narrative with its cast who endure anyway despite everything; thus being not only a powerful movie but also cinematic stimulants towards those more fortunate in other countries possibly motivated enough to assist in the war effort. But even so, adding biography into the thriller for 2023 came at a cost. In order to make Lukaszewiscz’s Konstantin character more sympathetic towards Ukrainian war effort, he is denied sufficient time or attention required for full fleshing out.

Even before the outbreak of world war, there were some real life cases involving Konstantin Gudauskas (the ones filed in court and those who knew him best back home). None of this information comes across in Bucha nor anything else which could have given depth about his character aside from an introductory scene that happens almost too quickly. Therefore he becomes more archetypal ‘angel’ figure without much dimensions and less relatable.

However, Bucha does do remarkably well while focusing on one of the first atrocities committed during Russian invasion in Ukraine. This can be seen within how wartime events are presented crisply and briefly yet there’s enough room left for narrating about courageous actions by soldiers at war.

Under Art Against Propaganda project against Russian Propaganda worldwide, Bucha just ended a month-long screening tour based in the U.S. in March. The film’s trailer was screened both in Venice and Berlin as of 2023. In Toronto, a viewing happened soon afterwards. Bucha is presently trying to get distributors and streaming platforms.

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