Berlinale 2024: The Editorial Office (2024)(Redaktsiya)

The Editorial Office, the second film by Ukrainian Roman Bondarchuk, is a vicious, powerful satire of a post-truth world.

Groundhog Day

by Alexa Dalby

The Editorial Office

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Yura (Dmytro Bahnenko) is a natural history museum researcher. He and his colleague Mykhailo (Oleksandr Shmal) set out to photograph groundhogs on the steppes in the south of Ukraine to prove the creatures have returned, so that EU grants can be claimed. In doing so, they witness arsonists (persons as yet unknown) burning down the trees.

But when Yura tries to publicise the crime, Mykhailo disappears, the museum don’t care and no one will publish the photos. He is referred to a website, which offers him a job as a journalist and whose irascible editor (Aleksandr Gannochenk) tells him to fabricate human interest stories. He can’t get his exposé published even now.

Disillusion follows Yura in his search to make the truth known. He listens to audio tapes of allegorical fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull obsessively. He has to take photographs of a supposed Covid victim, a politician, who has clearly been shot in the head. His mother (Rimma Zyubina), an unemployed tourism manager, is obsessed with making money with cryptocurrency and is in a relationship with shady Ruslan (Andrii Kyrylchuk), a political adviser to the local mayor, who is in hospital in a coma, yet still running for re-election (spoiler alert: he wins, of course). Everyday life is absurd and corrupt. Ruslan believes so much chaos in Ukaraine is the way to prevent invasion by another country (another spoiler alert: he was wrong, it’s the second anniversary).

Yura’s quest brings him into contact with counter-culture Lera (Zhanna Ozirna) and through their relationship the many targets of the film’s satire become clearer as they discuss journalism and why anyone would want to be a journalist. They know they live in an alternative facts, pre-war (people sense it’s coming, as they say they do now) world, just before the Russian invasion.

In what may be a postwar postscript, much public tree planting and speech-making ensues in the Crimean now-wasteland, with various countries represented by their flags and their satirised lookalike leaders – Zelensky and shock-headed Johnson – for British viewers, this shows the film was made when he still had an international reputation. And do the groundhogs in their holes care about any of this? Watch and you’ll find out. Also watch Sergei Loznitsa’s savage Donbass.

The Editorial Office had its World Premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in the Forum section on 16 February 2024. International representation is by The PR Factory

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