De Balie Kijkt: Mud

A film + conversation about social complicity against the backdrop of the brutal war in Ukraine

programme editor
Ilya Povolotsky
running time
It’s one of the biggest questions since Putin’s aggressive, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Why are Russians not protesting massively against the war in Ukraine and Putin’s regime? Taking the documentary Mud as a starting point, experts discuss how to understand the position of Russian citizens. In the film they seem apathetic, is that what living under an authoritarian regime does to you? What are we looking at when we speak of collective responsibility? How does civic participation work in authoritarian regimes?

How IDFA described Mud

To the aural accompaniment of sloshing mud and gurgling water, Russians soak themselves in the curative mud baths of a historic spa. It is October 2022, and the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been underway for seven months. This place, however, seems completely unaffected. Before visitors can enjoy the benefits of being packed in mud, they must deal with a complex jumble of prohibitions, stamps, voucher systems, and other bureaucratic hoops and hurdles.

Mud is a black-and-white dreamscape without any interviews or commentary. Harsh reality makes its presence felt only occasionally via short news clips on a smartphone, a TV news broadcast quickly zapped away to a game show with Soviet songs, and soldiers silently taking mud baths. This microcosm of a health spa becomes an allegory of contemporary Russia, with mud rituals and curative baths assuaging potential social unrest, and ultra-detailed surveillance silencing any possibly rebellious citizens.

Mud is one of the first cinematic testimonies about war from inside of Russia since the invasion.



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