The Dangers of War: Our Review of ‘Donga’ on OVID

Posted in What's Streaming? by - June 07, 2024
The Dangers of War: Our Review of ‘Donga’ on OVID

I love my contrasts and the documentary with the title Donga has a lot of them, as a scene shows an archive photo of the director and its main subject, Muhannad ‘Donga’ Lamin. That photo shows him as a teeanger before Arab Spring dominoes into the Libyan Civil War. A decade later, he’s a man, watching his own footage that shows that war’s complexities. One of the things this documentary successfully does is deconstruct the insular nature of war documentaries.

Maybe I’m giving Donga too much credit because every war film shows the frontline and the retreat areas, but this film shows the complexities of the idea of home and its temporary nature. The ‘retreat area’ scene I’m talking about depicts Donga and his best friend from childhood, Ali. As both become war journalists, sometimes they retreat to Tunisia, going to music bars just for the wi-fi. But after Ali beccomes a husband and father, Donga returns, capturing the raw nature of war.

The footage doesn’t always explain who everyone is but it showcases the relatinshops that war builds. Some scenes show freedom fighters yelling at Donga for running around even if it’s obviously dangerous. Donga shows how the fighters treat him sometimes as a pesky journalist but mostly as a friend. The standard definition footage shows the tough part of tough love between Donga and the fighters. Donga’s camera is constantly on the move, the shots capturing a young man honing his skills.

As a film, Donga also shows how civilians and journalists like him especially feel the effects of PTSD, as it shows closeups of a subway car in Donga’s new home city, Istanbul Scnees like this capture the sensory aspect of PTSD and makes sense of something that normally doesn’t. Of course, what makes documentaries better than Hollywood’s portrayal of psychology is this kind of subtlety. Sometimes, when the camera points to something more impressionistic, it’s more effective than something that’s dead on.

Impressionistic is probably an appropriate word to describe a breathing and evolving film like Donga. He spent a decade going back and forth to the front line and has better technological access. But there’s a distinctive style to his slightly askew handheld shots even with an confident hand. The later footage also feels longer but in a good way as it captures war’s dread. Danger is always around the corner in war zones like this and I can’t help but commend this.

Donga is an OVID SVOD exclusive.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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