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How Solntsepyok, a brutal 2021 propaganda film, primed Russians for war with Ukraine

The conflict in Ukraine is as a lot a bloody battle as it’s a propaganda conflict.

The doublespeak in Russian media is that there isn’t any conflict, that the Bucha bloodbath was staged by Ukrainians and that Russians and Ukrainians are united in liberating Ukraine from NATO and nationalists.

You are reading: How Solntsepyok, a brutal 2021 propaganda film, primed Russians for war with Ukraine

It’s inconceivable to find out to what extent audiences are deceived. There are quite a few particular person protests on social media, however most Russian media shoppers need to consider the authorities.

Whereas many had been caught off guard by the February 2022 invasion, if we had paid extra consideration final yr, we’d have seen the fictional function movie Solntsepyok (directed by Maksim Brius and Mikhail Vasserbaum, 2021). Titled “Sunbaked” in English, this movie set the propaganda machine in motion to arrange Russian audiences for conflict.

After a really transient theatrical launch and an enormous promotional marketing campaign, the movie screened on the federal government run NTV channel in August 2021 and is now extensively obtainable on Russian streaming companies.

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A brutal conflict movie

The movie begins on a sizzling sunny day in Might 2014 within the self-proclaimed Luhansk Individuals’s Republic. A few automobiles stuffed with unshaven criminals senselessly homicide a gaggle of villagers, steal their watches, rape the ladies and brutally bash a child right into a wall.

The Novozhilov household, on their strategy to Russia, get caught up on this mayhem. The borders are closed. There isn’t a manner out. The daddy, Vlad Novozhilov (Aleksandr Bukharov), is an Afghan Conflict veteran with no urge for food to hold a gun once more. He enlists as a paramedic driver to assist with the fatalities.

For some unusual purpose, in Solntsepyok, the Ukrainian military shells its personal villages indiscriminately. That absurd message is clearly vital within the propaganda conflict.

Elsewhere, volunteers from throughout Ukraine are heading into particular coaching camps to study fight methods to struggle the separatists. These Ukranians are proven as caricatures: right-wing skinheads and folks costume carrying psychopaths.

The movie options caricatures of right-wing skinheads.

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Younger males, excessive on the success of the February Maidan protests in Kyiv – a protest towards the federal government forging nearer ties with Russia, moderately than the European Union – are on the point of take up arms, though it’s not clear who they need to struggle.

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An online of lies

Movie critic Dmitri Sosnovski, from the federal government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, referred to as Solntsepyok “a heartbreaking movie” that

exhibits the conflict in all of its ugliness, with out edits, with out pointless sentimentality, with ruthless, merely insufferable frankness, as a dependable story about what occurred to Russians on the very borders of the Russian Federation.

However the movie is riddled with errors. Alexei Petrov, an officer with the Ukrainian Armed Power, calls the movie “propaganda trash”. In a YouTube video he factors out all of the lies featured within the movie.

The primary lie comes up within the title credit, the place an assertive voiceover narration says “the Ukranian] authorities was overthrown” after the Maidan protests.

The truth is, the Ukrainian parliament in 2014 referred to as for early elections and the formation of an interim unity authorities. They granted full amnesty to protesters and sought to question then-President Yanukovych, who fled to Russia. For a authorities overthrow, this was moderately orderly.

The movie falsely claims Ukrainian nationalists had been calling for genocide of Russian residents. It hyperlinks anti-Russian sentiment with the descendants of Hilter Youth. It contains a cigar chomping American normal who guarantees the US will flip Ukraine right into a land with out Russians. There have been no US generals in Ukraine in 2014.

It is a brutal conflict movie that’s purposefully complicated, devised to prime Russian audiences for rationalising the invasion by way of a sequence of ethnic caricatures and lies.

Confusion reigns

It’s exhausting to inform who’re the nice guys and who’re the baddies in Solntsepyok. The movie is about Vlad resisting earlier than finally taking over arms for the pro-Russian militia separatists.

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The viewers is positioned to be on the aspect of the separatists. We see the battle from their perspective, however it’s complicated: there are such a lot of completely different belligerents.

Solntsepyok’s propaganda is designed to confuse the viewers, entertain with motion and dramatic ethical selections and overwhelm. The viewers is consistently emotionally manipulated.

One character, the bespectacled Gurevich (carried out by the celebrated Vladimir Ilin) lovingly rehearses a track a few brilliant future with a youngsters’s choir. Out of the blue, a Ukrainian missile strikes the varsity. He’s the one survivor.

Harmless youngsters are among the many quite a few victims of the movie.

Battered and shell shocked, he turns up on the pro-Russian militia workplace demanding to be enlisted. He’s completely unsuited for conflict however he has a motivation: youngsters had been murdered indiscriminately.

In maybe probably the most highly effective scene of the movie, Vlad has a heated trade together with his teenage son, Ilya (Gleb Borisov), who tells him he desires to remain and struggle with the separatists. As he walks off, Vlad grabs him:

Have you learnt what conflict is? It’s not romantic and it’s not heroic. Conflict is concern. Worry is just not considering that you can be wounded or killed. In case you are wounded, you’ll really feel ache, however no concern! In case you are killed, you’ll really feel nothing. Worry is when, round you, your mates are being killed and you may’t do something!

After his son and spouse are killed in an indiscriminate bombing, Vlad finds salvation by selecting up a gun and strolling together with his new comrades.

This imagery primed the Russian viewers for the longer term conflict. Though Vlad resisted taking over arms he was pressured to desert his ethical place when he had misplaced all the things that he held sacred. He had no different alternative.

Solntsepyok is a textbook instance of propaganda. Connections to the reality usually are not as vital because the ideology of shaping a motivation for conflict.

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