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Machine gun as a stick

Teaching War
Regissør: Adela Komrzy
(Tsjekkia)

This timely warning against the remilitarization of societies and teachings in Europe was recorded as a result of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Teaching War opens with a simple but profound quote from an American sociologist whose "Thomas theorem" became a standard term in that 20. century sociology: "If people define situations as real, they have real consequences."

When the film opens in the gym at a school – with the kids lumped together on benches while a couple of big, uniformed men wiggle around a cannon to demonstrate an "eight-pound cannonball" – it's clear where this definition of reality leads us.

For anyone who grew up in Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union before the fall of the Berlin Wall, military training at school (CDP) will be a familiar memory. A Russian girlfriend once boasted how she could "pick an AK47 apart and put it back together in under a minute" – blindly. I never tested her on this, but found no reason to doubt her skills.

Demonstration of strength. Adela Komrzy's film is a welcome and timely warning of the insidious remilitarization of education and society in Europe as the post-Cold War optimism fades. The notions of a wonderful new world united through capitalist consumption dissolve as a result of the new friction (and alleged conspiracy) between the superpowers and the recurrent Russian threat the West is experiencing.

Komrzy's film is a timely remedy for this kind of simplistic and dangerous thinking.

Whether the opening image gives the impression of children's play, the sequence that comes after no doubt leaves the viewer with how the Czech Republic's civil defense program for schools views reality. A group of heavily armed men enter the gymnasium and aim their automatic weapons at the kids while. . .

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Nick Holdsworth
Holdsworth is a writer, journalist and filmmaker.

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