Denmark, Finland, Sweden 2018
The film follows the life of 10-year-old Ukrainian boy Oleg throughout a year, witnessing the gradual erosion of his innocence beneath the pressures of war.
Oleg lives with his beloved grandmother, Alexandra, in the small village of Hnutove. Having no other place to go, Oleg and Alexandra stay and watch as others leave the village. Life becomes increasingly difficult with each passing day, and the war offers no end in sight. In this now half-deserted village where Oleg and Alexandra are the only true
constants in each other’s lives, the film shows just how fragile, but crucial, close relationships are for survival.
Through Oleg’s perspective, the film examines what it means to grow up in a warzone. It portrays how a child’s universal struggle to discover what the world is about grows interlaced with all the dangers and challenges the war presents.
THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS unveils the consequences of war bearing down on children in Eastern Ukraine, and by natural extension, the scars and self- taught life lessons this generation will carry with them into the future.
In THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS, I follow 10-year-old Oleg, who lives with his grandma in a warzone in the eastern part of Ukraine, less than a mile from the frontline. I spent time in the area researching, and I remember the first time I met him. He immediately stood out. I asked if he could describe how it felt to be scared. He looked at me and without hesitation said, 'If you can imagine a hand reaching in and grabbing your heart. When the first explosions sound, after the cannons have fired, the hand starts squeezing your heart. Then it gets all cold, too.'" It was then I knew I had found my main character.
Shortly after, I met his grandmother, Alexandra, an amazing, loving and strong woman. It was obvious to see how close and special the bond between the two of them was. Their house still showed signs of shelling and desperately needed repairs, but it was filled with warmth and laughter. Most of the village had been forcibly displaced, often including close friends and relatives, leaving behind a vacuum of activity where time did not exist. But there was always a warm meal ready and a good story waiting to be shared in their house. Life was calm and beautiful, as it should be. For a second, you almost forgot about the war. Staying there long enough, though, I soon realized that this bubble of safety was just an illusion. A brittle illusion that could shatter violently and often unexpectedly, to reveal the very real and dangerous world that Oleg and Alexandra really live in.
The film is about how people deal with the cracks in that illusion and about the human drive we have to survive no matter what. How, even amidst the most impossible circumstances, we build illusionary worlds for ourselves in which we can find comfort and warmth, because we can't exist for long in chaos. Even if the illusion is demolished over and over again, we still keep building it back up again. I find that kind of tenacity is incredibly beautiful.
I am also reminded of the importance of the people who surround us by the mutual dependency that Oleg and his grandmother have developed. They share a love for each other. Without one, the other would collapse. They live in two different worlds. His world is immediate: he reacts to what happens and quickly suppresses the bad things. She, on the other hand, knows that the things yet to come can have terrible consequences for them. In the film, Alexandra keeps the big, bad world away from Oleg as long as she can. That's what makes it possible for him to be a child long enough to give her the joy and hope that she needs to survive and keep up the illusion.
2014 - The Fencing Champion
2013 - Chikara – The Sumo Wrestler’s Son
2012 - Travelling with Mr. T (co-directed with Andreas M. Dalsgaard)
2009 - Dormitory Master
2004 - Ramona's Journey
Cast & Crew
Directed by : Simon Lereng Wilmont
Written by : Simon Lereng Wilmont
Produced by : Monica Hellström, Sami Jahnukainen
Director of Photography : Simon Lereng Wilmont
Editor : Michael Aaglund
Composer : Uno Helmersson, Erik Enocksson
Sound Design : Pietu Korhonen, Heikki Kossi, Peter Albrechtsen
Nominations and Awards
- EFA Documentary Selection 2018