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The Distant Barking of Dogs: Discussion Guide

Discussion Prompts: Mental Health in Conflict Zones

It seems that the violence and constant fear are making Alexandra sick. She is given medication to cope with panic, yet she is unable to leave the situation that threatens her health. Have you ever had health issues related to broader national events, such as military conflict, political unrest or environmental destruction? Should considerations of public health be taken into account when countries make decisions about international relations?

The war occupies the subjects’ daily lives. Yarik and Oleg contemplate which dogs are army dogs and which aren’t. They plan where to sleep if shooting starts. They reinforce the glass in their house in case bombs rattle the shelves. What are other ways that you notice war becoming a normal part of everyday life for the family? How does this normalization of war make you feel? Are there scenarios in your own life in which you have had to make certain things feel normal but doing so makes you uncomfortable?

“It seems as if our lives are frozen. We are like animals hiding from the winter and waiting for the cold to end,” says Alexandra. What toll do you think this waiting takes on the families that remain?

The resilient Alexandra shares why she covers up her fear. She explains, “My hands tremble involuntarily, and I can't make them stop. To hide this from the kids, I start cleaning… The kids laugh and say that I am crazy, but it's better for them not to know the truth.” Alexandra is protecting Oleg and Yarik by hiding her fear. What toll do you think this takes on her? Do you think that she has other strategies for balancing her fear with her role as a caretaker?

The adults in the film make sacrifices to protect the youth. In what ways do you also witness young people providing support to the adults?