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Frontier Church (2015)

A journey through the war-torn Donbass region in Ukraine following Father Dmytro (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate) as he carries out his service and interacts with the soldiers, his 'camouflaged flock'.

Director:

Zee Upitis
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Cast

Credited cast:
Dmytro Povorotniy Dmytro Povorotniy ... Himself
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Storyline

A journey through the war-torn Donbass region in Ukraine following Father Dmytro (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate) as he carries out his service and interacts with the soldiers, his 'camouflaged flock'. Film paints an atmospheric and surreal picture of the environment the area has became, and its inhabitants deep connection with the Orthodox Church and the personal affection they have developed towards the priest, showing them in both religious and casual situations, revealing the doubts and fears of the soldiers as well as Dmytro's beliefs regarding his role in the war as a priest.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Priest bringing church to the front

Genres:

Documentary | Short | War

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Details

Country:

UK | Ukraine

Language:

Russian | Ukrainian

Release Date:

26 December 2015 (Ukraine) See more »

Filming Locations:

Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

GBP3,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Configure//Disfigure See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Dmytro Povorotniy: My role is to keep up the soldiers' spirits, to help solve difficult moral dilemmas which are inevitable for someone dealing with the dark side of human nature and literally facing death on a daily basis. It takes a lot of work and dedication to take the right path under those circumstances - a path of dignity, worthy of a Christian and worthy of a man.
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User Reviews

 
An intimate, haunting window into the conflict in eastern Ukraine
16 July 2016 | by pierrelamont1See all my reviews

Frontier Church documents the work of Dmytro Povorotniy, a priest in the Ukranian Orthodox Church, as he provides blessings and support for a battalion of fighters resisting the separatist incursion into Ukraine.

As a window into the conflict in Ukraine, Frontier Church is sparse and unadorned, and all the more memorable for it. There is no sense of total war or outright chaos, but of a remote political and strategic duel played out across an increasingly devastated landscape, punctuated by periods of shock and danger. The ghostly presence of separatism hangs in the air; the enemy is never seen even in the distance, but has forced the cast into a sudden transformation in their lives. Dmytro, himself a veteran of the Soviet army, describes the unnaturalness of war in the abstract. But as a reminder of the fragility of Ukraine and the perennial threat of their historical neighbour and overlord, the conflict has constructed a theatre of old feelings and old ways, resurrected defiantly against international organisations and big words.

While the fusion of religion and war is ancient, there is no nationalist bombast fused with religious fervour coming from Dmytro. Instead, he uses his remove from martial affairs, combined with his sense of respect — which he cultivates without pretension, and receives as opposed to awe or submission from the fighters — to give them an outlet of normality. He is a man cut from their cloth more than the garb of his calling. He slices an apple in his palm with an intimidating knife and raises the shorn fruit to his mouth with the flat of the blade. "Yes, this is how we do things."

The film is shot in a way which frames the bleak anti-climax of war superbly; the quiet of waiting to die or kill, the resignation to necessity, the fear offset only by the responsibility of self-defence, the ritual of blessing, and the need for survival,. There is just the right balance of dramatic distance and intimacy in the camera-work. Edited with patience and precision, each passage contains a sense of time attuned to the reality of the situation. Only in motion — towards the frontline or somewhere in need of help — is the occasional beauty of the landscape captured. The soundtrack consists of natural sounds punctuated by industrial throbs.

One particularly haunting passage finds Dymtro reading rites to fighters in a stone hut. A fuzzy transmission cuts through his incantation, reporting the death of a fighter. The priest has no choice but to suspend his blessing as the words cuts through his incantation. After he finishes, the fighters cross themselves as if their lives depend on it. Unfortunately for them and Dmytro, it doesn't.


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