In The Earth is Blue as an Orange, director Iryna Tsilyk provides her twist on the current events documentary. Ostensibly exploring the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Tsilyk focuses on the intimate implications of the war rather than reasons behind it. The Earth is Blue as an Orange offers no explanation of the terrible situation engulfing its subject’s lives but paints a picture of the life changing impact it has on a family attempting to live the most normal life that they can.
Anna is a single mother who along with her four children lives in a small town near Donbass, Ukraine which is under constant bombings. To maintain morale, she and Mira, her aspiring cinematographer daughter, write and shoot an original movie in their hometown. The shelled remains of buildings around the town provide interesting on location sets, and the tanks patrolling the city make capturing dystopian b-roll as simple as pointing a camera out the window. The family project helps them make the best of their unenviable predicament.
The Earth is Blue as an Orange represents the change towards a more Gonzo style of documentary filmmaking that has become increasingly popular. By foregoing the traditional hallmarks of many documentary films, Tsilyk delivers a feature that may be devoid of hard facts but tells a personal story. While the viewer may have no better understanding of what the conflict is about, through Anna and her children’s struggles, the impact of the conflict is clear. This stylistic choice treats a documentary as film rather than a news report, and in doing so creates a film with a longer lasting impression.
While the narrative film created by the family is never shown, its meta quality in context with The Earth is Blue as an Orange is readily apparent. Anna and Mira’s film is about a family coping with living in a war zone. While Tsilyk may be literally creating a documentary about the pair’s film production, the fictional film itself is a coping mechanism for living during the conflict. The line between each movie blurs until they are one in the same: a unique and extremely cinema literate package.