Olympus Inferno and War 08/08/08
The brief August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia continues to spawn films
Channel One, the same Russian TV network that produced the blockbusters Night Watch and Day Watch has made an action movie about the Georgia War, titled Olympus Inferno. The movie features two main characters, an American entomologist studying butterflies in South Ossetia (you can hear him yelling "What the hell is going on?" a lot in the trailer) and a Russian female journalist. The two characters must work together to get back to Russian lines after getting swept up in the August 8, 2008 Georgian offensive against the separatist enclave of South Ossetia.
Russia has finally produced a Paul Greengrass-style action movie, complete with headache-inducing jerky camera work and explosions. Click on the video above to watch the trailer for Olympus Inferno
Anti-Saakashvili Russian Documentary: War 08/08/08
Propaganda to Influence U.S. Elections?
This fictional movie comes on the heels of the documentary War 08/08/08: The Art of Betrayal, which starts by claiming that U.S. "mercenaries" fought alongside Georgian troops in the conflict and were found among the dead during the fighting. The movie's website, which went up before the presidential election in November 2008, suspiciously uses the phrase "Change We Need" at the top in red letters, perhaps alluding to President Obama's then-campaign slogan and hinting that American voters should vote for Barack Obama. The filmmakers behind the Russia.ru multimedia site charged that John McCain's presidential campaign exploited the Georgia War in an attempt to improve the Republican candidate's then-flagging poll numbers versus Obama.
Such unsubstantiated claims are reminiscent of Cold War-style propaganda in 1980 that accused then GOP presidential candidate Ronald Reagan of being a trigger-happy cowboy who would blow up the world in a nuclear showdown with the USSR. The "mercenaries" depicted in the video are actually among the several hundred U.S. Marines who were sent to Georgia to train Georgian peacekeepers bound for Iraq and Afghanistan, and who supplied the Georgians with their Marine camouflage battle dress uniforms (the only difference between the Marine and Georgian uniforms were the helmets and red Georgian flag patches sewn on the shoulders).
Separating the Facts from the Messengers
Nonetheless, the film shows grainy images, purpotedly coming from captured cellphone cameras left behind by retreating Georgian troops. One video depicts a turret gunner on a Georgian armored vehicle shouting while firing grenades at a carload full of Ossetian civilians trying to flee the South Ossetian separatist capital of Tskhinvali. One wonders if some observers in Washington would rather focus on the propagandistic elements in the film than on the apparently real disturbing images.
According to The New York Times, the familiar English-language voice narrating Voyna 08/08/08 and Russia Today's documentaries is that of George Watts, a Canadian-born announcer who emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1952 with his parents and now works as a narrator for the Russian English-language news channel. Mr. Watts Russia Today biography notes that he worked for Radio Moscow's Foreign Broadcasting Service during the Soviet era, including doing voice overs for Leonid Brezhnev. The NYT mentioned Mr. Watts' background in an article about Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's inauguration in March 2008, preferring to focus on the narrator's Red diaper baby family history than on the substance of his current presentations.
Tblisi Versus Moscow PR Wars and the Larger Question of U.S. Foreign Policy
What Exactly Were We Doing in Georgia?
While Voyna 08/08/08 is a work of one-sided propaganda in that it does not show the suffering of Georgian civilians at the hands of the invading Russian forces during the conflict, there are legitimate questions about what U.S. diplomats and advisors on the ground in Georgia knew and when they knew it about President Saakashvili's plans for an offensive into South Ossetia. Even if Saakashvili believed he was responding to grave Russian provocations in ordering his troops into the separatist capital of Tskhinvali, did he seriously believe that Russia would stand aside as its South Ossetian client state was crushed, or that the U.S. would risk a nuclear confrontation with Moscow by becoming directly involved in fighting the Russians on his behalf?
No More Questions for Former Saakashvili Lobbyist?
Obviously, in the wake of a historic presidential election and a global economic meltdown, such questions have largely been forgotten in Washington, along with much discussion of Russia in general. Randy Scheunemann, the aide who had lobbied Members of Congress on behalf of Saakshvili and other NATO applicant clients though his Orion Strategies communications firm before going to work for the McCain campaign, has given no public interviews since November 2008. At that time, Scheunemann denied allegations published in The New York Times that he had leaked false rumors about Alaska Governor and GOP Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin to reporters during the presidential campaign. More important questions -- such as whether Mr. Scheunemann or other members of the Washington establishment have any regrets about strongly advocating NATO membership for Georgia and the unintended consequences of U.S. policy in the former Soviet republic -- remain unanswered.
The Outcome of Battle: Both Russia and Georgia Lost the War
While Russia won a decisive military victory over little Georgia last year, most observers agree that Moscow decisively lost the PR war with the Columbia-educated and English-proficient Saakashvili, who at the height of the conflict was giving dozens of interviews per day to Western media outlets ranging from the BBC to Fox News, pleading with Americans and NATO to rush to Georgia's aid. And in spite of Russian prognostications that he would have to resign in defeat, Mr. Saakashvili's government has survived numerous tests from the Georgian opposition and accusations from fired cabinet officials that he recklessly provoked an unwinnable war with Russia. Even Moscow's most quoted investment analysts have conceded that the Georgia War accelerated the flight of billions in foreign capital out of Russia, hastening the collapse of the Russian stock market and decline of the ruble in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Any Silver Linings for Russia and the West?
Ultimately, even though the Russian military acquired some valuable real estate on the Black Sea in Abkhazia, there were no winners in the 2008 conflict, only losers. Some Russians would argue that Russia had to draw a line in the sand against NATO expansion. From now on, they would argue, the Obama Administration and European Union nations will think twice before expanding NATO's military commitment to include Ukraine and Georgia, particularly since some parts of Ukraine, such as the Crimea peninsula where the Russian Black Sea Fleet resides, have large pro-Russian populations.
However, the main constraint on expanding NATO these days is not Russian resistance, but economics. Ukraine's economy is in even more dire straits than most in Eastern Europe, and NATO may be reluctant to take on new members who would cost considerable sums to modernize and integrate into the Alliance's architecture. NATO also badly needs Russia as an overland logistics route for its mission in Afghanistan. The alternative -- shipping supplies through Iran -- is likely to prove even more costly in terms of concessions by Washington than going through the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. Yet there are probably a few in Washington who would favor cutting a deal with the Islamic Republic mullahs of Teheran over horsetrading with the Kremlin, in a sign that the Cold War legacy of mistrust still runs deep on both sides.
Russian action movie on Georgia war coming soon
Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:41pm EDT
By Conor Sweeney
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian action film inspired by last year's Georgia war and shot in the same style as the Bourne trilogy will be broadcast soon on Russia's top television channel, a spokeswoman for the station said Wednesday.
The trailer for "Olympus Inferno," the latest Russian interpretation of last August's events, shows its two young heroes ducking gunfire, explosions, and a raging Georgian officer firing his pistol.
The film is set to highlight the debate between Moscow and Tbilisi about who started the five-day war over the pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s. Diplomatic ties between the countries remain cut.
The film, which will be shown on March 29, is "something like the Bourne films," said a spokeswoman for Channel One, referring to the Hollywood action movies starring Matt Damon.
The fictional account tells of a U.S.-based entomologist and a female Russian journalist who unintentionally capture evidence that Georgia started the conflict using a special camera night lens as they attempt to film rare night butterflies.
The two face obstacles as they try to get through the frontlines of advancing Georgian forces and back to South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali with proof of who started the war.
Months of skirmishes between separatists and Georgian troops erupted into war in August when Georgia sent troops and tanks to retake the pro-Russian rebel region of South Ossetia, which threw off Tbilisi's rule in 1991-92.
Russia responded with a counter-strike that drove the Georgian army out of South Ossetia.
Moscow's troops pushed further into Georgia, saying they needed to prevent further Georgian attacks. The West condemned Russia for a "disproportionate response" to Georgia's actions.
SHOT IN ABKHAZIA
The entire production was shot over the winter months in Georgia's second breakaway region of Abkhazia, because its temperate climate resembled South Ossetia in summertime.
Director Igor Voloshin said it should be seen simply as an action film about two young people who get caught up in the war.
"Debates begin ... 'bad Russian or bad Georgians', but it's just a film. You should look at it as a film, as a work of art, which is what I made," Voloshin told Reuters.
Click here to read the rest of the story at Reuters.com