Olympus Inferno is the latest and hottest movie in Russia. Almost twenty-five percent of all Russians tuned in to watch it, according to Russian Channel One. It is also a prime example of Russian propaganda. Even so, Olympus Inferno is required watching for anyone wishing to see the Russian point-of-view of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.
The movie features two main characters: an American male of Russian descent and a Russian female. The two are studying a rare butterfly when they accidentally witness and film the Georgian military invading South Ossetia. After being left to die by American peacekeepers and chased by a Georgian supercommando, both finally make it to safety by being rescued by the advancing Russian military. At the end of the film, the American decides not to return to "materialistic and empty" America but instead begin a new life with the Russian woman who he falls in love with.
The film definitely hat tips recent western films. I noticed action sequences and pans that borrow heavily from films like Behind Enemy Lines and the Bourne movies. Moscow accepts Western film schools now, unlike in the Cold War.
That's where the Western perspective of the movie ends. The film is clearly pro-Russian and anti-everything else.
- The film has Russian president Dmitriy Medvedev as the voice of reason. Putin is no where to be seen.
- The film starts with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili promising peace. When the American character sees he believes Saakashvili the female makes fun of the American's ignorance and warns that Saakashvili is not to be believed.
- Georgian military equipment purposefully attacks civilian targets while waving massive Georgian flags.
- US peacekeepers refuse to help the heroes and American media tell the Georgians where the two are hiding. Never mind there were no American military personnel in Georgia except embassy guards.
- Even Ossetians come across in a not so positive light. They are shown as badly clothed, bumpkins without a government, who fight with old weaponry, and will turn on each other with minimal prompting. An Ossetian blogger denounced the colonial attitude which the film depicts South Ossetians. The film probably shows Ossetians this way in order to imply that they were completely helpless and needed the Russians to save them.
The Russian film industry has benefited from Russia's resurgence and government funding. Watching Russian films like Olympus Inferno offer a window into their world. Right now it is a world full of incompetent yet shady Americans, evil American allies, loyal Russians trapped in the Near Aboard, and heroic Russians. With films coming out later this year dealing with Ukraine it will be interesting to see how the Russian worldview sees its western border.