Watch on Cineuropa: Seven Ukrainian films
- Cineuropa and White Rabbit are proud to present seven great Ukrainian films – with more titles to come – and all revenue will go directly to the Ukrainian filmmakers
Cineuropa is proud to showcase seven outstanding Ukrainian features - Yaroslav Lodygin’s Wild Fields, Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Black Level, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe, Nariman Aliev’s Homeward, Taras Dron’s Blindfold, Nikon Romanchenko’s Tera, and Yarema Malashchuk and Roman Himey’s New Jerusalem. These timely films, brought to you in partnership with White Rabbit, are available for sale. All revenue will directly support the filmmakers. We asked producer Denis Ivanov to present the first three titles to our readers.
Cineuropa and White Rabbit will soon offer more new titles. Stay tuned!
Radio host and media manager Yaroslav Lodygin’s debut film is based on the novel Voroshylovgrad by Serhiy Zhadan, which received the BBC award for “Ukrainian Novel of the Decade” and was also nominated by the Polish Academy of Sciences for the Nobel Prize for Literature last week.
The story in the film rhymes poetically with what is happening in Ukraine now. Herman is forced to return to his hometown in the Donbas. His older brother has disappeared, and now the main character has to protect the family business – an old gas station, as well as his childhood friends and his love from those who seize piece by piece of land, turning it into cornfields and a railway that leads to nowhere.
The script of the film was penned by Zhadan, popular screenwriter Natalka Vorozhbyt and the director himself. The international premiere took place at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn. Wild Fields also received 12 nominations for the Golden Dzyga National Award and received four awards, including the prizes for the Best Actor and Best Cinematography.
At one time, Valentyn Vasyanovych acted as a DoP, editor and producer of The Tribe by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, largely affecting the visual style and pace of this extraordinary film. After this work, Vasyanovych decided to pursue his own directing career. Thus, Black Level became a very personal statement about the midlife crisis experienced by the main character, a wedding photographer, on the eve of his 50th birthday. This film was originally made without a literary basis, without a script, and relying only on visuals. In order to find his own voice, Vasyanovich refused to receive funding and any obligations, making the picture a labour of love, with the help of friends.
Black Level received the Grand Prix of the Fribourg IFF, the prize for Best Ukrainian Feature Film at the Odesa Film Festival in 2017, and it was a Ukrainian candidate for Best International Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. The film opened a new phase in Vasyanovych’s directing path, which continued with Atlantis and Reflection, and confirmed his status as one of the most interesting Ukrainian contemporary auteurs.
The Tribe has become one of the main breakthroughs in Ukrainian cinema over the past decade. It was filmed in sign language and takes place in a boarding school for the deaf. The film is shown without translation and subtitles, as its slogan states: “For love and hate you don’t need a translation.” The director set himself an ambitious task – not just to tell a story, but to explore and expand the very language of cinema, making a “silent film of the 21st century.”
The film premiered at the Critics’ Week of the Cannes Film Festival, where it became the first title in receipt of three out of four awards. The Tribe took part in more than 100 festivals around the world, received more than 40 prizes, and was released in more than 40 countries. It is also ranked 4th in the list of the 100 best Ukrainian films of all time, compiled by a poll published by the Dovzhenko Center.
“In cinema, Crimea often evokes inhospitable, vast and empty expanses of land, and the kind of tales that fit that territory. The feature debut from Ukrainian filmmaker Nariman Aliev is no exception. But the entirety of Homeward unfolds outside of this republic, part of the Russian Federation, and on the road towards it more specifically. Indeed, the path we will follow here is going to be slow and laborious, on treacherous terrain,” says Bénédicte Prot in her film review for Cineuropa. In detail, Homeward, presented in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, follows a father, called Mustafa (Akhtem Seitablaev), and his youngest son Alim (Remzi Bilyalov). The pair commits to transport the body of the family’s eldest son, who was killed in combat in Donbas, to bury him in Crimea. Prot describes Aliev’s film as “an allegorical work, filmed in sober and classical manner” wherein “a sad and lacklustre beauty emerges, echoing the situation of this people that is so rarely talked about.”
Blindfold – Taras Dron
Taras Dron’s feature follows a young talented MMA fighter called Yuliya (played by Maryna Koshkina). When her fiancé, a soldier in the Ukrainian army is declared missing, presumed dead, her prowess in the ring disappears. She refuses to be defined as the widow of a war hero, so she hangs up her gloves and finds love again. Billed as “a hard-hitting portrayal of a woman who fights back,” with this film the Ivano-Frankivsk-born hemler won the prize for Best Film at Warsaw in 2020 and the FIPRESCI Prize at Odessa in 2021.
In her review, Scottish film critic Amber Wilkinson higlighited that “the relationship between the women is particularly well drawn as we come to see that no matter what the external conflicts, it's the grappling with inner emotions that counts” and praised Dron’s work on “building his characters so that the choices they make aren't binary and feel organic.”
Tera revolves around Lyuba (Natalka Polovynka), a candy factory worker who runs a very ordinary life up to the day when her son disappears in the war zone in the east.ILyuba sets out on her own for search, but she can’t find him. Thus, she goes back to the assembly line and remains silent. In the meantime, the faces of the colleagues show desperation. And then comes the call that will change everything. According to the programmers of Film Festival Cottbus Tera is “a very quiet and deliberate film” wherein writer-director Nikon Romanchenko “takes more time for the plot and shows not only the everyday life, but also the suffering of the main character, which you can imagine as a documentary one.”
Born in 1991 in Kyiv and an alumnus of the Kyiv National Theatre, Cinema and Television University, Romanchenko’s debut feature is based on his previous short, titled Unavailable and recipient of the Special Jury Diploma at the 2018 edition of Kyiv’s Molodist International Film Festival.
A national competition entry at the 2020 edition of Docudays, Malashcuk and Himey’s documentary follows a group of Ukrainian Christians who, every year, undertake a pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia, a sacred place. Between prayers they share news, brag about their wealth, take pictures of chapels, give interviews and – supposedly - witness miracles.
In her review for Cineuropa, Marta Balaga praised the directorial duo’s “eye for human weakness” and defined it as “a fun, if not terribly sympathetic, watch” later turning into “flat-out funny once a cameraman emerges from behind a preacher, sweating profusely or warning just about everyone against raising their heads too much because their nose holes will be too big in the picture.”
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