In the Rearview is a uniquely intimate observation of war as it unfolds. The film, premiering at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival this week, follows multiple generations of Ukrainian civilians as they abruptly abandon their homes and rely on the help of director Maciek Hamela’s volunteer aid van to escape the life-threatening conflict.

As he steers through minefields to leave Ukraine, wending his way through one military checkpoint after another, Hamela offers us a seat in his van, which serves as a waiting room, hospital, shelter, and zone for confidences and confessions.

A scene from In the Rearview, directed by Maciek Hamela

 In the Rearview is a raw portrait composed of Ukrainians from various backgrounds, who share a single goal: finding a safe haven in the midst of conflict.

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To bring the war to the attention of cinephiles attending the 76th annual Cannes Film Festival, the crew of In the Rearview organized a show of solidarity with Ukraine, on May 22. In the middle of the Boulevard de la Croisette, the busiest venue in the city, they stood on a carpet that had made the journey from Lukashivka, a small village in the Chernihiv region near the border with Russia, to Cannes. The floor covering had been partially destroyed by a bomb that hit the house of its owner, a 58-year-old Ukrainian woman, Tatyana, who still lives in her demolished house and does not want to leave her country.

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From left: Maciek Hamela, director of In the Rearview, Larysa Sosnovtseva, one of the protagonists of the film whom Hamela evacuated from Ukraine, now living in Caen, France, Kseniia Marchenko, production manager, Yura Dunay, DOP, Anna Palenchuk, producer. AP Photo/Daniel Cole

The carpet was brought to Cannes with a number of key Ukrainian volunteers providing support, such as “Repair Together,” a Kyiv-based organization for the reconstruction of destroyed houses, and the French association “We Are Ukraine,” that helps to integrate Ukrainian refugees in France.

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“We decided to bring the carpet to the premiere of our film In the Rearview at the Cannes Film Festival to remind everyone that the war is still going on, people die, and houses are being bombed,” Hamela said. “We need to continue to support Ukraine in order to help it win this war.”

A house in Lukashivka, a small village in the Chernihiv region which borders Russia, from where the carpet was brought to France (photo by “Repair Together”)

 “The idea to bring the carpet to the Cannes Film Festival stemmed from the desire to show that we live very different lives. In Ukraine, the reality of war is inescapable for its people every day. At Cannes, it is possible for festival-goers to skip the movie, but Ukrainians cannot avoid the dangerous circumstances they live in,” said Kseniia Marchenko, the movie’s production manager. “This carpet is literal and intimate evidence of the war and the destruction caused by Russian bombs.”

The Polish-French-Ukrainian co-production is a result of countless evacuation journeys made by Hamela between March and November of 2022. When Russia launched its full-scale attack on Ukraine in 2022, he bought a van on the third day of the war and started transporting refugees from the Polish border. Within a week, he bought another two vans and organized other buses to transport people arriving at the border crossings with Poland. That was how the idea of In the Rearview was born.

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Hamela envisaged a documentary that would be subordinate to the evacuations, where the filming would be performed inside a van. The van then becomes a confessional for deeply emotional stories of war experience, often told for the very first time.

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