Motherland (2023) Review

“Dedovshchina” may translate to the benign rulings of the grandfathers of Belarus. Still, in practicality, it’s the motherland of all brutality for a country that ironically preaches peace through its military.

Filmmakers Alexander Mihalkovich and Hanna Badziaka take an engrossing insight into the severe casualties of time and atmosphere in a gloomy, stormy direction and display the institutionalized barbarity to the fore in the titular documentary. Dedovshchina, it turns out, is a code of psychological and physical abuse visited on by conscripts inherited from the Russian army. History has shown taking this path does not enforce deterrence but rather acts of abuse and saddening cases of suicidal tendencies across militaries.

Svetlana’s son Sasha was found hanged, yet covered in bruises and ligature marks. Svetlana spends her moments trying to cajole others that this path is severely dangerous, and we witness her time spent with motiving visits to others grieving. The feature also goes into the perspective of Nikita, who gets conscription and refuses to become a nutcase like his friends. However, his personal path led to a discombobulated experience and one he regretted undertaking for the sake of the army. One surprising theme both filmmakers push upon is the hypocrisy behind the preachings of military action and their morals; similarly, the same can be said for the United States, where men and women stand at the front yet come back with unimaginable scars or their bodies lying several feet under. The voiceovers (inspired by Mihalkovich’s experience) are tender amidst a tenebrous setting. Overall, it’s a grim chapter that reminds folks of tensions that lay for anyone in times of warfare and hopelessness.

In current times, Ukraine is rumbling with war, and Belarus might join that agenda sometime down the line; consequently, it accentuates Motherland‘s point: this nation of a touted “peaceful, prideful people” is not settling down with peace anytime soon. Chains of violence and struggles continue, as the film beautifully acknowledges, “Who are we? What will happen to us and our children?”

It’s a message that preaches there is no closure coming yet.

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