IN THE REARVIEW (TIFF 2023) – Review by Leslie Combemale

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In the Rearview is aptly named. It’s a documentary in which the camera sits inside a car, driving in Ukraine evacuating people from their homes. That’s the entire movie. Does it sound boring or repetitive? It’s anything but. Filmmaker Maciek Hamela allows those in the car to say what they will, and however their experiences of the war are reflected in their conversation, or lack thereof, become small, meaningful interactions between the viewer and the subjects being filmed. This film cannot help but move the viewer, build compassion, act as a reminder for those not living through an unprovoked war to feel gratitude.

One van at the beginning of the war acts as shelter, transport, hospital, and confessional, as it careens through thousands of kilometers to bring fleeing families, sometimes with their pets, sometimes crying over leaving them, to safety. These total strangers are brought together like sardines for a ride to somewhere new, many of them shellshocked from seeing family or neighbors blown up or taken away. They’re driving through cities with rubble, landscapes with tanks and soldiers, sometimes having to stop because mines have made the road deadly, sometimes having to stop and backtrack because a bridge is gone. Some of these poor people take it all in stride, some are silent and in shock, some talk nonstop about the horrors they’ve seen. At one point, a woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time got multiple gunshot wounds and our hero, the driver, has to drive her to Poland, with the chance she will likely die in transit. He gets on the phone and pleads to find her a place in a Polish hospital.

Here’s the thing, though. Hamela IS the driver. Or he’s one of the drivers. He got the idea to film In the Rearview when he was driving a van, evacuating refugees. He decided to film his experiences, using a cameraman as second driver. The cameraman would film during the day as he drove, and replace him as driver at night. What this film does, is it reveals the dangers, horrors, and tragedy of war in a way that nothing else could, and in so doing is an essential document of this moment in history. In the Rearview is a powerful act of protest, done via filmmaking.

4 out of 5 stars

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Leslie Combemale

Leslie Combemale writes as Cinema Siren on her own website,, and is a frequent contributor to MPA's, where she interviews filmmakers above and below the line, with a focus on women and diverse voices. She is the Senior Contributor at Leslie is in her 9th year as producer and moderator of the influential "Women Rocking Hollywood" panel at San Diego Comic-Con. She is a world-renowned expert on cinema art and her film art gallery, ArtInsights, located near DC, has celebrated cinema art and artists for 30 years.