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Must be the Season of the Witch

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Photo: Poster for the Ukrainian Folk Horror "Konotop Witch", 2024, Source: Film.ua
Photo: Poster for the Ukrainian Folk Horror "Konotop Witch", 2024, Source: Film.ua

As soon as the full trailer for the Ukrainian ethno-horror film "The Witch of Konotop" was released, with its premiere scheduled for 22 August 2024, the swamps of Moscow erupted in howls. No, it wasn’t the Russian witches welcoming their kin as one might think, but rather Russian propagandists, high-ranking war criminals from the Russian government, and "ordinary outraged Russians". And they began to howl out of fear.

So, what happened?


The company FILM.UA announced the development of an entire line of Ukrainian horror films at the beginning of 2023. The first release in this line was to be the horror film "The Witch of Konotop", a movie in which, according to the creators, "pain transforms into fury".

The film has nothing to do with the satirical novella of the same name by Ukrainian writer Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnovianenko. The plot revolves around an ancient witch from Konotop who falls in love with an ordinary guy and renounces her witch powers. However, after Russian soldiers capture the town at the start of the full-scale invasion and brutally kill her lover, she decides to take revenge. She regains her powers and mercilessly deals with her lover’s killers.


Photo: Poster for the Ukrainian Folk Horror "The Witch of Konotop", 2024, Source: Film.ua

It is this simple and common cinematic plot - revenge on one's offenders - that has provoked an unhealthy uproar and extremely dissatisfied reactions among the citizens of fascist Putin's Russia. What is surprising, as the plot fits perfectly into the ideological framework of Dostoevsky, beloved by Russians: both crime and punishment in one package. Under the trailer for the film, as noted by the producer of "The Witch of Konotop", Iryna Kostyuk, accusations of Ukrainians being satanists and "dehumanised" could be found, or comments such as:

"While Russians wish everyone peace and speak of brotherhood, Ukrainians are making films about killing Russians. Soon, there will probably be films like 'World War Z' where instead of zombies, Russians are killed..."

It is unlikely that even experienced psychiatrists will be able to understand what is going on in the mind of the person who left this comment, and which Russians wishing for peace and brotherhood are being referred to - maybe those currently trying to advance on the Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk fronts? Or those who nightly launch strategic aviation and bomb Ukrainian civilian infrastructure? Or maybe those who, under the guise of the "beautiful Russia of the future," have spread across Europe and, sitting on European grants, tell the world that "war, of course, is bad, but the interests of good Russians, as the affected party, must also be considered."


Photo: Poster for the Ukrainian Folk Horror "The Witch of Konotop", 2024, Source: Film.ua

The story of merciless and deserved revenge on the killer-occupiers reached "the very top," and even the former head of Roscosmos, neo-Nazi, propagandist, and "gauleiter" of the occupied part of the Zaporizhzhia region Dmitry Rogozin reacted to the film's trailer on the social network X (formerly Twitter) by writing:

“In Kyiv they are now making such horror films about patriotic witches who slaughter Russian ‘orcs’. Bullshit and schizophrenia.”

It is commendable that despite the fascist frenzy, Dmitry Rogozin has not forgotten the English language. It is sad that Rogozin still struggles with logic and common sense and is still surprised by the negative attitude of Ukrainians towards Russians, who day by day kill Ukrainian citizens both at the front and in the rear. One would think that Rogozin would have rid himself of any illusions about Russian-Ukrainian friendship after receiving a "HIMARS" shrapnel in his backside at a banquet in a Donetsk restaurant in 2022, but apparently, "a leopard cannot change its spots". But the dock at The Hague can bring about change.

Meanwhile, Russians do not limit their "flight of creative thought," releasing one propaganda film and series after another. Take, for example, the disgustingly false film "The Witness", which tells the tragedy of Bucha through the eyes of an allegedly "neutral" Belgian musician. According to the creators of the film, all war crimes against civilians were committed directly by "Ukrainian neo-Nazis at the behest of Western curators" to tarnish the actions of Russian "liberators". This poor propaganda piece failed even in Russia, international distribution was cancelled, and film critics compared "The Witness" to films commissioned by the Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda. Equally false and manipulative are films about the hybrid Russian invasion of Donbas in 2014 ("Opolchenochka", "Solntsepiok / Hotsunlight") or a series supposedly showing the "truth" about the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv ("Lead Her Through the Maidan"), where the events of Euromaidan are presented as a "coup d'état".

In any case, the Russians' violent reactions to the Ukrainian film indicate that they are well aware of their guilt, as remnants of conscience, even at a subconscious level, trigger outrage. And if we think in mystical terms, as was said in one vampire film, vampires do not like mirrors not because they are not reflected in them, but because mirrors show what they have become. And the film "The Witch of Konotop" is precisely such a mirror in which Russian occupiers and those who sent them to fight can see themselves in all their unattractive glory.

While Russian bots, Rogozin, and "concerned citizens" spew venom in the comments under the trailer of the Ukrainian horror film, Hollywood actor and three-time Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen – the very Aragorn from Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy – voluntarily arrived in Chernivtsi on the opening day of the "Mykolaichuk OPEN" film festival. He brought his romantic western "The Dead Don't Hurt" as part of a European promotional tour. The presence of "Aragorn" at a Ukrainian film festival during the war further underscores on which side of the frontline the "orcs" are currently standing and where the truth and future victory over the forces of evil lie.

Additionally, excerpts from the play "The Witch of Konotop" by the Ivan Franko National Theatre were showcased on the first day of the inaugural Peace Summit in Switzerland. This play is one of the most popular and well-known contemporary productions of the Franko Theatre. It has garnered numerous theatrical awards, including the National Shevchenko Prize of Ukraine in the category of "Theatrical Art" in 2024.


Photo: "The Witch of Konotop" by the Ivan Franko National Theatre on Summit on Peace in Ukraine, Switzerland, Source: Ft.org.ua

"'The Witch of Konotop' is the voice of modern Ukraine, fighting against darkness for its existence. It is a contemporary story about the strength of the Ukrainian spirit and its resilience. A spirit filled with the light of truth that resonates loudly through the ages in the unified desire to live, create, and triumph!" says Yevhen Nyschuk, General Director and Artistic Director of the Ivan Franko National Theatre.

This play has gone "viral" on social media, amassing millions of views. It has generated 5.8 million UAH for the Franko Theatre, with reviews written by publications such as The New York Times. To purchase tickets for the play, one must queue from early morning.


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