You can tell a lot about a culture from the way they let their hair down. In the Ukraine, we discover that a big night out is fraught with tension.
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23 Jan 2017 - 11:04 AM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2017 - 2:03 PM

The Beastie Boys’ song Fight for your right (to party) takes on a different meaning in the Ukraine. I wonder if it’s the most played song on Clive Martin’s iPod? Martin travels to the Ukraine in Big Night Out, a new documentary series where he explores the nightlife in hazardous parts of the world. Martin gained notoriety in the United Kingdom for doing a similar doco series exploring Britain’s nightclub culture; think of him as Louis Theroux with a beer bong and a lot of Dutch courage.

Currently, the Ukraine is the only country in Europe to have a war on its own soil. If you’re a little foggy on Ukrainian politics, since 2014 the Ukrainian army has been fighting with a pro-Russian separatist state, the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), in the Donbass region. The fighting began when Russian artillery and personnel, dubbed as a "humanitarian convoy", crossed the border into Ukrainian territory without the permission of the Ukrainian government. It’s a stealth invasion by Russia, led by President, Vladimir Putin, who justified the incursion as 'defending the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass'.

How bad is it there? Martin looks up an interactive map on the internet tracking trouble zones in Europe with “war emojis”. The regions he’s visiting in the Ukraine are the only ones that have the death emoji: a sad face with an ‘XX’ for eyes. When he gets to the affected areas they look perfect for shooting a post-apocalyptic film but not so great for partying. One bar Martin visits doubles as a nightclub and bomb shelter; convenient. And the most terrifying aspect, aside from the war, is the young people of Ukraine seem to have just discovered techno music. The dream of the 90s is alive in the Ukraine. Martin takes a survival kit with boots, a gas mask and flack jacket; sadly, no glow sticks.

The parties Martin attends resemble scenes from Trainspotting but without gravity defying babies. Martin goes to a foam party in Sedova, which has to be one of the only places left in the world still throwing them; the locals are drowning their sorrows soaked in suds and it’s as depressing as it sounds. Martin asks a group at a house party what their drinking mantra is and a guy yells out: “who’s fucked?” The revellers reply: “everyone’s fucked.” Their credo has a bittersweet double-meaning because they think it’s about getting smashed but it also refers to the hopeless situation they’re all in. One crazy revelation is real estate is so bad in these towns that teenagers can afford to rent houses to throw parties. And if you thought the lockout laws being rolled out across Australian cities were bad, wait until you hear what happens in these conflict zones. Each town has a curfew of 11pm and if people are caught on the streets after curfew they get arrested. It’s so harsh that people left in clubs still open after the curfew, and there are many, choose to stay overnight until the curfew lifts. Martin switches sides during his visit to ride with the curfew police and they end up arresting all the people at a party he just left!

Martin discovers the Beastie Boys were correct (if not a little ill prepared for their battle) that the right to party is an expression of freedom for the people of Ukraine. Many don’t want to leave (the obvious question) and their partying is amped up by the tense situation around them. Martin even encounters soldiers, in their full combat uniform, on dance floors in nightclubs.

Everyone is blowing off steam the best they can in a bad situation.

Big Night Out visits the Ukraine on Tuesday night on SBS VICELAND at 9:30pm.

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