Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Olympus Inferno



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.

***SPOILERS***

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.

4 comments:

Adrian said...

Looks interesting. Here's a link to a bittorrent of the movie

http://isohunt.com/download/74866913/olympus+inferno.torrent

Senor Freebie said...

I'm not so sure its fair of you to decry this film as propaganda given you didn't even get your facts straight about it. I just watched it follows almost to the letter the final, accepted account of the film. Sure, it ends before the Russians overstep their UN mandate but thats hardly exceptionally dishonest.

Here are some corrections:

* "Putin is no where to be seen."
There was actual news footage of Putin as well as Medvedvev.

* "The film starts with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili promising peace."
The day before Georgia attacked Ossetia Mikhail declared the Georgians would no longer fire into Ossetia and would withdraw.

* "Georgian military equipment purposefully attacks civilian targets while waving massive Georgian flags."
Both the Georgians and Russians carried flags because their uniforms and equipment is similar.

* "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."
The UN peacekeeping mission in Georgia had only Russian troops. US troops in Georgia were there are "military advisors" of the Georgian military. The American media you refer to was a clear rip off of the BBC, which is British.

* "in order to imply that they were completely helpless and needed the Russians to save them."
They were helpless. They were attacked by a well funded, modern professional military trained by the USA. They were outnumbered ridiculously and had no heavy weaponry. While the Georgians fired on them from the hills with long range rocket artillery. On top of that, in the initial assault the Georgians killed ~8 UN peacekeepers, provided by Russia, which under the UN mandate gave the Russians the legal right to respond.

Senor Freebie said...

Oh and I forgot to mention, the reason why Putin wasn't a constant feature with this war was because he was at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games when it started. In fact its been suggested this was deliberate, to sideline him.

Catholicgauze said...

Senor Freebie,
Thanks for the comments. My responses are below:

The film starts with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili promising peace.
Saakashvili did declare a cease fire but then several firefights broke out afterwords and several Georgian villages were shelled.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Georgia had only Russian troops. US troops in Georgia were there are "military advisors" of the Georgian military. The American media you refer to was a clear rip off of the BBC, which is British.
UNOMIG had 27 countries participating in it. Russian troops were not the force in it. There were no American field advisers who could have been truthfully portrayed in the movie.

"Both the Georgians and Russians carried flags because their uniforms and equipment is similar."
I'm not talking about uniforms. I'm talking about the APCs that wave massive flags while gunning down people in buildings. Georgian military do not wave flags on vehicles during operations. The reason flags were shown was to tell viewers Georgians gun down civilians.

"in order to imply that they [the Ossetians -CG] were completely helpless and needed the Russians to save them"
Even some Ossetian bloggers take offense at this part of the movie. The S.O. military did lose the capital but fought bravely elsewhere and even began to turn back Georgian forces before the main Russian relief arrived.

I will give credit where credit is due, Putin's absence at the start of the war does explain his limited appearance. However, it is undeniable that Medvedev clearly comes across as the one in charge of Russia.