A little over one year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine and the world changed. Millions of Ukrainians were displaced, almost overnight, from their homes; entire cities were destroyed; all as the world watched. In Russia, state media dutifully got out the message: this was only a “special operation.” In the year that has followed, thousands have been arrested and jailed (or worse) for daring to call it what it really is: a senseless and brutal war.

Everybody Knows stands as a statement by a group of artists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus all of whom have fled their home countries in the wake of the war. Directed by Russian-Ukrainian filmmaker Daria Geller, Everybody Knows is a short film, a music video and a political action about a terrible reality that many are now too afraid to speak about openly: so long as Russian society remains apathetic to what is being done in its name there can be no peace, and nothing will change. Set to the words of Leonard Cohen, the film shows us what happens when everybody knows, but no one does anything.

The video addresses the apathy and willful ignorance that has afflicted Russian society for too long. In it, a group of women stand and watch as a young man lies naked on the floor, ready to give himself up to false promises. Representing the individual, and therefore a meaningless number in the eyes of the regime, he finds himself being lifted up to the skies hoping to fulfil his duty, only to realise that he is nothing but a resource to be selfishly exploited. Shot on 16mm film using only natural light, the film’s seamless long shots are set against a motionless dark colour palette enhancing its eerie feeling of stillness. As these images repeat again and again, the repetition deepens our understanding not only that everybody knows that things will seemingly never change – but that they don’t even care.

The film – produced by the independent production company, No Man’s Land, co-founded by Director-DOP Geller with her partner, Yuval Orr – is the work of established artists who fled their own countries in the last year and are now based in Israel. Their work is meant as a clear signal to the world and to their compatriots who have not, cannot or will not speak up: everybody knows the truth, and nothing can change until we acknowledge it.

Geller states:

“When the war started, and not only my friends but total strangers from the filmmaking community started running away and coming to Israel, I created a group for filmmakers arriving in Tel Aviv to bring people together, which now includes more than 1,000 members. I shared the idea of the video with the group – from the cast to those involved in the production, these are all people from this group who were immediately onboard. Honestly, I was surprised by how many people volunteered to take part, because the fears about speaking up are so real; many will agree with you quietly but not be willing to attach their name to a statement, let alone to a work like this. I think it is our responsibility as artists to speak the truth, especially to the powerful, but in the end it’s not enough for us to speak alone: we need more voices to join the chorus against a senseless war and the lies that keep it going, which together claim new innocent lives every day.”

Everybody Knows is ultimately more than just a commentary on the war in Ukraine. It is also a commentary on the state of our world, where the very nature of truth seems to have become a matter of opinion, where up can sometimes be called down. While this was long true in Russia, where the individual never held any importance to the collective and where the state-run Pravda newspaper (literally, “truth” in Russian) daily published lies, Everybody Knows is a warning call to push back against this global phenomenon of lies-as-truth that threatens to swallow us all whole. For if we don’t stand up, our fate is to watch silently as those who don’t conform are simply disposed of, while we remain complicit in our silence for the atrocities that continue to take place.