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The Best In Hell is an 'unbiased' Ukraine war film produced by a Russian mercenary

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulJan 13, 2023 | 15:59

The Best In Hell is an 'unbiased' Ukraine war film produced by a Russian mercenary

Currently directly involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Wagner Group funded a feature length war film that recreates an actual battle. We take a look at the running irony in this 'non-partisan' documentary.

Who: The Wagner Group, also known as PMC Wagner or simply Wagner, is a private military company (PMC) based in Russia. The paramilitary group has been involved in various conflicts around the world, including in Ukraine, Syria, and Africa. 

What: In Ukraine, the group is believed to have been involved in the conflict in the Donbas region, providing support to pro-Russian separatists. Most recently, the Wagner Group’s capture of the Ukrainian city of Soledar was a significant victory for the separatist forces and was seen as a major setback for the Ukrainian government. The town's salt mines were of strategic importance and the capture of Soledar was seen as a major blow to the Ukrainian economy.

Among the increasing controversies surrounding the Wagner Group is its alleged ties to the Russian government. The group is believed to have been created and funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin is also known as "Putin's Chef" due to his catering business that has provided food to the Kremlin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Yevgeny Prigozhin. Photo: Getty Images

Now, The Best in Hell: Prigozhin also happens to be the producer of the latest Russian action film documenting the Ukraine crisis, The Best In Hell, which also happens to be written by Aleksey Nagin - a Russian commander of one of the the Wagner Group’s assault detachments. 

The opening of The Best In Hell (2022)

The intense war film attempts to provide a realistic portrayal of the brutal realities of the ongoing war. An actual battle that occurred in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol is recreated in the film over the course of its 107 minutes. 

A poster for The Best In Hell (2022)

What are supposedly the Wagner PMCs, are known as "white"; and an ambiguous adversary is referred to as “yellow”, are engaged in violent combat. The "Whites" are tasked with ensuring the arrival of an aircraft manufacturer to a high-rise building behind the contact line, which should detect an enemy battery. But to do this, they need to sequentially capture four buildings that are under the control of the "yellow".

Have a go at the full film:

The film's exploration of the human cost of war and the psychological toll it takes on soldiers is admittedly powerful and beautifully shot. The irony however lies in its politics.

Neither side is dehumanised or deliberately antagonised over the course of the film, which even though comes as a pleasant surprise, is almost laughably ironic. Though the film's director, Andrei Scherbinin has defended it as a reflection of the reality of the situation, the fact remains that the “whites” are most definitely the bad guys in this story. 

The activities of the Wagner Group have been widely criticised by governments and human rights organisations. Some have accused the group of war crimes, including the use of indiscriminate weapons and the targeting of civilians. Others have criticised the group for operating outside of the control of the Russian government and for being involved in conflicts in which Russia is not officially a party. Its activities have been widely criticised by governments and human rights organisations, and it has been accused of war crimes. However, the Russian government has denied any official ties with the group.

A mural praises the Russian Wagner group and its mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Hands in many pies: Prigozhin himself is known for his involvement in a number of controversial ventures, including the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll factory that has been linked to disinformation campaigns during the 2016 US Presidential Election. The Wagner Group is believed to have been formed in 2013, with the stated goal of providing military support to governments and organisations in need. However, the group's activities have come under scrutiny due to its alleged involvement in the Ukraine war.

The Russia-Ukraine war began in 2014 when pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine declared independence from the Ukrainian government. The conflict quickly escalated, with both sides engaging in a prolonged and bloody battle for control of the region. The Russian government has consistently denied any involvement in the conflict, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. However, it is believed that the Wagner Group has played a significant role in providing military support to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Visitors wearing military camouflage pose at the entrance of the PMC Wagner Centre. Photo: Getty Images

The Wagner Group's involvement in the Russian invasion is a clear violation of international laws and a serious threat to peace and stability in the region. The group's actions have contributed to a prolonged and bloody conflict that has resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of millions of people.

Some context: Under circumstances such as these, The Best In Hell’s supposed impartiality seems particularly inaccurate, though not in the way that the Wagner Group might consider.

For those still curious, The Best In Hell still holds its own (unbiased or otherwise). The film's impressive cinematography makes it a must-see for fans of war films.

Last updated: January 13, 2023 | 15:59
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