My Favorite War is an animated memoir of the director’s childhood in Soviet Latvia in the 1970s and 80s. It traces her inner journey from dedicated Communist Party follower to skeptical and rebellious agitator for the truth and democracy. It is a coming-of-age story, steeped in political history.
The favourite war of the title is World War Two, as fascinating to Latvians as it is over here. She loved to hear stories from the older generation of the war, and watched the shows on tv of the noble soldiers fighting Nazis. One was called Four Tank-men and a Dog, which sounds great and I would watch the shit out of, and will be my next Netflix binge if I can find it.
Everything about life in Latvia seemed a consequence of the war, from Soviet rule to the constant preparations for invasion from the next enemy, America. Nazi being a shorthand for pure evil, nothing done to them or against them or because of them would ever be questioned. In the face of such horror, an enemy faceless and soulless, nothing would be too far a step. And no one would ever be seen to take their side by questioning the current power, the heroes who had defeated them.
Yet as the film goes on and the main character delves deeper and deeper into the stories of the people all around her, she realises most people were put to as much harm by the Soviets as by the Nazis. The Soviets saved them from the Nazi invasion just to commandeer their land for military bases. They saved the country from ruination only to have them remain struggling in poverty and goods shortages. And they saved them from Nazi atrocities only to deport them to Siberia and death. In becoming a dedicated soldier against this evil, the main character has become most like them, unquestioningly following orders of a callous and unjust regime.
At the end, she says for her, World War Two ended in 1995 when the last Soviet military base shut down in Latvia. The last invader expelled, the last authoritarian power defeated.
And so she hopes will the destiny of people everywhere, to reject in their hearts the narrative of division, of othering people as the enemy, of blind devotion to those who seek only to exploit you as a weapon, of making you forget your shared humanity.