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The Editorial Office (Redaktsiya)

Biologist-turned-journalist living in Southern Ukraine seeks truth and justice, is this extremely clumsy political comedy - from the Forum section of the 74th Berlin International Film Festival


Since the Russo-Ukraine War started exactly two years ago, film festivals across Europe and the world have been inundated with Ukrainian movies, while Russian films have been virtually banned (unless they are completely independent from state money). The topic of these Ukrainian movies is almost invariably the conflict, and the message is that Putin and war are bad. The problem is that very few of these films are particularly original and groundbreaking. Their selection is first and foremost the reflection of a geopolitical movement, and a gesture of compassion (much like Ukraine winning Eurovision). This is no exception.;

At an interminable 126 minutes, The Editorial Office is a highly ambitious and terribly annoying film. A title announces that the action takes places “six months before the escalation of the War”, somewhere in “Southern Ukraine”. In other other words: this is summer 2021, just before the war in Donbas morphed into a full blown conflict in February 2022. Young biologist Yura (Dmytro Bahnenko) works for the Natural History Museum in search of the elusive steppe groundhog, a species possibly extinct in the wild. Except that it isn’t. The animal announces itself in the film’s opening sequence, and he makes several appearances to film viewers, despite the movie characters remaining blithely unaware of the animal’s proximity. At one point, the tiny creature is behind a bush just next a camera-wielding Yura.

Yura takes up a job at the local tabloid in order to draw public attention to an arson that he witnessed. This is were he becomes involved in a series of bizarre investigations, as well as the campaigning for the reelection of a moribund mayor (this topic might ring bells with those who remember the final years of Lenin, or watched Rezo Gigineishvili’s Patient#1, just last year). Shady politicians and businessmen wish to keep the near-dead leader in power as a puppet so that they can pull the strings at their convenience. Yura lives with his mother (Rimma Zyubina), but the woman is ridden with debts and they could soon end up homeless. Yura becomes involved with Lera (Zhanna Ozirna), a fellow journalist of roughly his age. She’s on a mission to promote the use of feminine job titles: she wishes to be called a “journalistka” rather than a “journalist” (a trend inversion that would horrify Anglophone feminists keen to do just the opposite, and kill off words such as “actress” and “waitress”).

This is a movie torn between two different priorities. On one hand, it desperately wants to be funny, but it mostly fails at it. The jokes are lame and uninspiring: jibes about gender-neutral jobs and wanting to “fuck”: feminists, the idea of a woman falling in her underwear in a children’s playground, a funeral home disguising shooting victims as Covid casualties. On other hand, it wants to make an anti-Russian political statement, but it barely says anything new and relevant. A “Putin is a dickhead” graffiti is featured repeatedly in the film. The writing is on the wall: the Russian leader is a detestable man who must be denounced at all occasions. As if we didn’t know.

There are many more issues. The script is beyond confusing, and it’s often impossible to make or tails of the countless developments. The acting ranges between stiff and unremarkable, and not a single actor possesses enough charisma to lift the story off the ground. And there’s no chemistry between Yura and Lera, which enjoy a romance as effervescent as a Coca-Cola bottle left opened in your fridge for about a week. And the ending is beyond ludicrous, blending a bizarre cult ceremony, a dream sequence and even a tornado. Roman Bondarchuk’s second film includes the worst impersonation of Boris Johnson and Bono Vox that you will ever see in your life. Perhaps precisely for that reason, that’s the film’s funniest scene. The action takes place a few years from now. Hopefully that’s not a terrifying premonition: the last thing the world needs right now is a the return of yet another deranged and narcissist world leader with baby-blond hair.

The Editorial Office just premiered at the Forum section of the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. The film was shot in the now war-ravaged Kherson and its proximities mostly before the full-on conflict broke out two years.

By Victor Fraga - 16-02-2024

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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