Russian cinema theaters will soon show propaganda-style depictions of the Ukraine War. Who will be watching?

The main focus of the film is a renowned Belgian violinist who travels to Kyiv to give a performance. His journey is interrupted in February 2022 when Russia begins bombing Ukraine. The performer has endured a string of “inhuman crimes and bloody provocations by Ukrainian nationalists,” and he wants to share with the world “what it was really like.”

The first major motion picture on the 18-month invasion is “The Witness,” a play produced by the Russian government that had its world debut there on August 17. It portrays Ukrainian soldiers as vicious neo-Nazis who murder and torture their own citizens. One even sports a Hitler T-shirt, and another is depicted using drugs. The small kid of the main character also asks, “Isn’t Ukraine Russia?”

It is the story that the Kremlin has been pushing since the beginning of the conflict, presented as a movie.


The release of “The Witness,” one of an increasing number of propaganda movies, comes after Russian officials announced a desire to increase production of motion pictures extolling Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

However, two concerns arise at a period of instantaneous information and misinformation during conflict and other times: Do propaganda movies actually work? And how effective are they?

Whether these movies will draw audiences is a significant unknown. Similar films have had disastrous box office results. Sociologists also claim that the public’s interest in the conflict has diminished and that people now mostly seek escape from the depressing news coming out of Ukraine.

Director of the Levada Center, the leading independent pollster in Russia, Denis Volkov, claims that “we frequently hear (from respondents) that it’s a huge stress, a huge pain.” In an effort to deal with the situation, he claims that some Russians insist they “don’t discuss, don’t watch, don’t listen” to the news concerning Ukraine.

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