An experiential journey through the war in Eastern Ukraine along the ideological borderland between East and West, Zero Position
explores the intricate layers of hidden powers that shape the conflict before the 2022 Russian invasion. Introducing civilians and combatants on both sides, who are numbed and shattered by the ongoing conflict, the film explores stark realities and sheds light on a country with dueling identities, wherein loyalty to one ideology or the other can result in either survival or demise.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine declared independence. In 2014 pro-Russian separatists declared independence from Ukraine in two small regions in Eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk. War then broke out between Ukrainian and Russian backed separatist forces, and a 450 km static frontline was established in Eastern Ukraine. Cities, coal mines, power plants, and steel mills are on the frontline in a region that was once the industrial heartland of the Soviet Union. Thousands have been killed, wounded, and displaced. Crucial infrastructure such as bridges have been destroyed to cut off access to separatist territory, segregated civilians from resources they had formerly relied upon. Meanwhile countless land mines and unexploded bombs litter the landscape, making daily travel a routinely precarious affair.
Director and journalist Louie Palu serves as a surrogate for the viewer, navigating ruined landscapes to have honest and unmediated conversations with civilians and combatants alike, illuminating the psychic impacts of the ongoing conflict on the populace. The film takes viewers on tours through strategic sites such as power stations and the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol that was the focus of Russian attacks early in the invasion. We are even allowed to sit with families and hear their thoughts on the conflict, the ideologies behind it, and the way it is shaping the lives of children.
Zero Position reveals the reality of desperation, institutional decay, personal trauma, and slave-like working conditions often hidden from the West by a patchwork of legacy Cold War controls related to state security and an inability for most journalists to report there and reach Western audiences.
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "My parents were born before the Second World War and grew up witnesses to the violence of the conflict. I grew up hearing stories of trauma and poverty in my family and was taught to always be in touch with your roots. This became the basis of all my choices of subject matter as a documentary photographer and filmmaker. I feel as though my role in the world as a documentarian is to monitor power and document social political issues relating to human rights, poverty, and conflict."
— Louie Palu
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