Maciek Hamela’s minimalist debut documentary is an expansive road trip through an invasion that drove more than 15 million refugees — more than one-third of Ukraine’s population — in search of safer pastures.



In the Rearview

Maciek Hamela

Born in the 1980s, director Maciek Hamela was part of the first generation of Poles not forced to study Russian. Still, he took it upon himself to learn the oppressor’s language. In 2013, when the Ukrainian president, pressured by Russia, refused to sign an association agreement with the EU, and masses protested at Kyiv’s Maidan Square, Hamela travelled to join them. There, he made lifelong friends and forged a devotion to Ukraine. Years later, in the initial days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, he purchased a van and began evacuating civilians — mostly women and children, now all refugees — to Poland. Within a week, he purchased two more vans, and hired a driver who doubles as a cameraperson to capture prosaic conversations about what was, and may be.

In the Rearview, which screened in the Cannes ACID programme and won top prizes at Warsaw’s Docs Against Gravity and Sheffield DocFest, is a raw, minimalist observation of unfolding war. Outside the van, destroyed military equipment and levelled houses line the roads. Rockets sound above. Inside the claustrophobic vehicle — occasionally a makeshift ambulance — Hamela is seemingly always headed west, looking back at his passengers, stopping at checkpoints, avoiding minefields, resting in bunkers, and traversing hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Hamela’s tenacity as driver and director turns the van into a portal between past and future. For audiences who have not known occupation, fatigue at news of the war may be understandable. For Ukrainians, there is no other option but to focus on the road ahead.


Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

Content advisory: violence


Mon Sep 11

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