Cyborgs vs. Vatniks: Hybridity, Weaponized Information, and Mediatized Reality in Recent Ukrainian War Films

In: Studies in World Cinema
Yuliya V. Ladygina Helena Rubinstein University Endowed Fellow in the Humanities, 2021–2023, Assistant Professor of Slavic and Global and International Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

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Focusing on Akhtem Seitablaiev’s blockbuster Kiborhy: Heroi ne vmyraiut (Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die, 2017) and Sergei Loznitsa’s auteur production Donbass (2018), this article argues that the 2014–2022 cycle of Ukrainian war films merits critical attention as an astute record of conspicuous social transformations in pre-full-scale-invasion Ukraine and for their original perspective on the hybrid nature of modern war and its mediatization. The article uses postcolonial and cyborg theories of hybridity, Baudrillard’s concept of simulacra, and the Marxist notion of “false consciousness” to illustrate how post-Soviet, postcolonial, and post-truth aspects of war-torn Ukraine conflate in Seitablaiev’s and Loznitsa’s works to highlight the recent shift in the nature of warfare itself. As the two films unequivocally demonstrate, the latter is defined not so much by high-tech armed operations and direct annihilation of the opponent as by contactless warfare, as well as by its consequences for those directly influenced by it.

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