Journalism during times of war is truly invaluable, which is what makes reviewing the film Slava Ukraini so difficult. On one hand, it is easy to admire the efforts made by philosopher and filmmaker Bernard-Henri Lévy to reveal the resistance by the people of Ukraine to the invasion of their country by Russian forces. On the other hand, admiration for the chosen subject and boldness in the filmmakers does not translate into good filmmaking. As far as documentaries go, Slava Ukraini makes the offense of being transparently biased, overly sentimental, and ultimately quite sloppy in its construction. In short, the intention is great, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Rather than giving background in the reasoning for the invasion or the history of the relationship between the two countries, Slava Ukraini dives right into the conflict a year after it has started. Without much context, the film assumes audience members have stayed informed about the developments, instead giving a closer intimate look at the lives of those living in the conflict zones. It is a film more about the resilient spirit of the people of Ukraine rather than an informative documentary about the larger factors causing the conflict.
The film itself is essentially treated like a filmed war diary, though Lévy never truly sees any action. Filmed during the second half of 2022, Slava Ukraini follows Lévy and his crew as they travel from Kharkiv, in the Donbass, to Kherson following the city’s liberation. Each location is highlighted by the people that Lévy meets and interviews, both soldiers and citizens. While there is no real structure to the film, and obviously no resolution, it is in depiction of the human element of the war experience that the documentary comes closest to being successful.
The DVD release for the film comes with a Q&A with Lévy at the Quad Cinema in New York City, moderated by Air Mail co-founder Allessandra Stanley following a screening of the film. There is also a theatrical trailer.
Entertainment Value: 3/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Special Features: 3/10