The upcoming documentary Wild Fields follows the story of Nadia, a single mother who turned war reporter when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. It follows her journey to understand, document, and sustain the self-organized mutual aid movement that arose independently of the government following the first days of Putin’s “special operation.” In June 2022, director Troy Ozuna spent two months filming in Ukraine and recently returned to continue production. The Agency team connected with Troy for the following Q&A to discuss his representation of Ukrainian mutual aid and eco-anarchist communities. We encourage readers to check out the teaser trailer below and the crowdfunding campaign to find out how you can support this project.
Agency: What inspired you to create the Wild Fields documentary about self-organized movements in Ukraine?
Troy: This project was sparked by a deep anger with the conspiracy-based complacency of people in my home country, the United States. I decided that if we have the privilege to debate the legitimacy of families experiencing “supposed” genocide, then I should do something to help on the ground first. More on that later. The very first seeds of Wild Fields were planted by my experiences filming on the Greek island of Lesvos, which still hosts the largest refugee camp in Europe. With asylum seekers from Afghanistan to the Congo, it attracted a large gathering of volunteers and humanitarians from around the world. The main community center there, One Happy Family, was an idyllic sanctuary for displaced people to gather, play music, learn film and the arts, or just heal from their trauma in volunteer-led permaculture gardens.
It was here where I saw the power that the global community has and continues to have, despite facing incredibly complex issues that governments should be solving. I met people and NGOs with comparatively little resources, fueled mostly by the ideal of human solidarity. Large-scale organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees played a huge role in Lesvos, but it was this international self-organized community that filled so many gaps in the centralized aid system.
That set the stage for me to get angry enough when the invasion of Ukraine started and I heard theory after theory about who was really pulling the strings. To me, this was a privileged way to entertain oneself at the cost of the suffering and lives of others. If we’re willing to speculate about the grand plans of Western or Eastern powers to profit from this conflict, then people should do that on the ground with those directly experiencing the undeserving consequences.
Agency: Can you give us a practical example of the self-organized initiatives that are the focus of the film?
Troy: The self-organized movement for and by Ukrainians is the most extensive I’ve seen so far. There are elderly women saving stray animals under direct shelling, tweens serving hot borscht to refugees from the east, radio-controlled car hobbyists 3D-printing parts to turn consumer drones into war machines, IT workers in Lviv collecting round after round of donations from Ukrainian business people to ensure frontline soldiers have all the necessary gear, and an army of international volunteers delivering supplies from around the globe. All of this is just a tiny glimpse into the decentralized way people are organizing to defend against a major world superpower.
The film focuses on mutual aid initiatives that are a global effort. Our team is making a bet with this project that independent Ukrainian initiatives and their allies will create an even more extensive model for global mutual aid. In my personal opinion, this movement is more exciting than the one that sent anarchist battalions from France and the US to help defend free Catalonia from fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Arguably, Spain’s hierarchy-free society would not have happened without being inspired by eastern Ukraine’s anarchist society of Makhnovshchina fifteen years earlier– coincidentally, where the current frontline is being defended today.
Agency: What has it been like doing these interviews and collecting footage in a war zone?
Troy: Filming in a country at war for the first time in my life was a perspective-shattering experience. There were unstoppable waves of fear and anxiety over one’s own mortality, and then the next morning the situation was just normal life. On Day 3, a missile siren in Lviv, where strikes successfully land once every few weeks, created utter terror. On Day 26, distant artillery blasts were audible every five minutes and closer strikes that rumbled my bones were just normal and laughed off (by necessity). My personal Overton window of normality shifted with each shaky night of rest. This was surprising for someone who never imagined himself creating a film in a country under active invasion by a superpower that, let’s face it, most of the world is afraid of.
The real battle is a logical and empathetic one. How do we make this film different from the gratuitous suffering that the news depicts, while still grounding the inspiring and happy smaller moments in the sobering and terrible reality in this country? How do we best support the survivors who agree to tell their stories and in the process retraumatize themselves? What is the best way to visually express complex emotional truths that are only fully understood by those who lived them? How the f*#!k do we inspire people to join this global coalition of allies to eliminate all humanitarian crises around the world with our stupidly ambitious film?
Agency: The story in Wild Fields is largely told from the perspective of a Ukrainian eco-anarchist. Can you share a little about what the eco-anarchist movement looks like in Ukraine?
Troy: The people who identify as eco-anarchists in Ukraine are seeing, documenting, and organizing parts of the biggest flourishing of rapidly shifting initiatives by the local and global working class that the country has ever seen. They are most notably involved in the plans and pilot projects to rebuild the country into a decentralized society focused on food and energy sovereignty. This could turn out to be a monumental evolution of society and economy considering that Ukraine accounts for 40% of the World Food Program’s wheat and contributes between 10% and 15% of the world’s two largest staple crops. Decentralized energy would have made it infinitely harder for Russia to destabilize the country through military aggression. The movement is also involved in media, academia, and organization for an army of humanitarian groups.
Agency: How can people support Wild Fields and learn more?
Troy: Beyond directly contributing to the campaign to fund the film, the best way for people to support us is to search their memories for anyone they’ve ever met and personally call people who they think would be most likely to contribute to the film’s production. We don’t expect anybody to donate money unless this is exactly what they’ve been looking to fund. Sharing on social media is also incredibly appreciated, but doesn’t seem to do as much as personal communication!
Another thing people can do is relay to us any relevant characters or stories. We’re still searching around the world for unexpected connections to this global solidarity movement we’re seeing in Ukraine and how it could carry on beyond this war.
With a decade of prior experience in documentary and commercial video work, Troy Ozuna has been making humanitarian / environmentalist documentaries since 2018. He directed the refugee-focused documentary Island of Gardens, and two docuseries: The Netrunner Diaries and Earthlings. Since 2016, he has lived and filmed out of a van, sailboat, and even on a bicycle. Roughing it to tell the world’s story is his modus operandi, especially with the age of easy travel seemingly coming to an end. He crafts globe-spanning documentary stories that blend geopolitical movements, surprising histories, and independent humanitarian efforts to make sense of our troubled species.