How many works of art, be they movies, series, documentaries, or plays, have been made by various states and independent entities about WWI and WWII? How many have been made about Napoleon’s wars from various French, Western, and Russian perspectives?
Speaking of Russians, Sky (Nebo is Russian), a new feature film about the Syrian war, has reportedly premiered in dozens of Russian cities. Russians say the film is based on the true story of a Russian pilot killed in 2015 while returning from an aerial sortie to the Khmeimim military base in the west of Syria.
The movie recounts the story of the two pilots Oleg Peshkov and Konstantin Murakhtin, whose Sukhoi Su-24 jet was shot down by Turkish air defense systems during their return from a combat flight on 24 November 2015. Both pilots ejected and survived, but Peshkov was killed later by Syrian fighters.
The movie’s director, Igor Kopylov, discussed the artistic and logical challenges he faced. He said: “I have directed several historical art projects, but this time, we are talking about a real story. Most of its heroes are still alive. We must admit that our crew was concerned, as we are portraying real people and real events. We have no right to twist or distort reality.”
Previously, many people in Russia and elsewhere had watched the movie Palmyra, which tells the story of Arthur, a Dagestani doctor whose daughter, indoctrinated by ISIS and al-Qaida propaganda, heads to Syria. Thus begins the journey of a father on a mission to save his daughter, infiltrating borders and embarking on Rambo-style adventures.
Both movies enjoyed the declared support of the Russian Ministry of Defense and other state agencies.
However, some believe it is too soon to turn these events into creative works of art, as their proximity to the present day or contemporariness overshadows the deep artistic perspective and falls instead under propaganda.
We mentioned Napoleon’s wars against the Tsardom of Russia, which were the beginning of the end for the great Corsican general. These wars, which unfolded in 1812, became the theme of great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace, which he wrote from early 1862 till 1865, nearly half a century later.
But times have changed, and the pace of life is now faster. People’s perceptions of creativity have evolved. Who says quick and fine masterpieces - because a blend of speed and quality is not impossible - replace creative works that require more time and deeper understanding?
All this talk about the Russian experience brings me to my point: when will we present our own epics and experiences in the Gulf region? For instance, is there any real work of art on the invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 or all the events that followed?
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.