The Earth is Blue as an Orange

That was great.

The Earth is Blue as an Orange is a documentary following a family as they make a movie about their experiences living through the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is incredibly warm and intimate, like watching a little boat, aglow with light, weather a stormy sea.

The film is set in Donbass, which was a city before the war, and now looks like a ragged collections of mostly abandoned neighbourhoods, giving it a feel more like a small town, since the people are so sparse. There is this strange straddling of worlds that pervades the film, because Donbass is at once a big city, and at the same time a small community. The signs of war are everywhere, yet the fighting has mostly now ceased. Yet the silence is not safety, and an occasional shell will fall, or shot fired, letting everyone know the war is not yet over. And yet, when the mum takes her eldest into the capital to get her into university to study cinematography, life there seems completely normal, as though there were no war at all. This unreal blend of how normal everything can be, when things are also chaotic and in peril, is a theme throughout the film.

You see it especially in the life of this little family, as Anna, a single mother, tries to keep this home a haven for her children, give them stability, normality, and inspire their creativity and humanity through art. I don’t know how she does it. There’s four weans, a house full of cats, and a tortoise cutting about, and she not only gets them fed and raised, but educated and in university, and painting and filming and photographing and singing and playing the ukulele and accordion and flute.

I don’t know if it’s just watching this off the back of To See You Again, but all I could think was, you don’t know how much love a mother has for her children, you can’t measure it or see the sides of it. A mother will do anything for her children. She will move heaven and earth. She will give them laughter and music and art even in war. She will make their spirits blossom even in the darkest times. You can not imagine what a mother will do for her children.

I gret, I’m not gonna lie. It was a happy crying, it just moved me to tears.

What I liked so much about this film was, by focusing on the family making a movie, it didn’t show Anna and her kids just passively experiencing the war, being done-to. It shows how they took their experiences, what they chose to do with them, how they had something to say about them, how they turned their hardships into a work of creativity, were given shells and bullets and made film and photographs, and how they shared their art with their community. That’s their story.

The Earth is Blue as an Orange is a film that gives agency to its subjects, and shows the indomitable spirit behind ordinary people, and how people need art to survive.

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