A SPECIAL EDITION FOR CANNES FILM FESTIVAL AND MARCHÉ DU FILM 2022
Spring / Summer 2022
We Stand for Ukraine with Weapons and Cameras
Ukraine in Focus in Cannes
Dmytro SukholytkyySobchuk Debuting in Cannes with Pamﬁr
Serhiy Bukovsky & Mykola Bazarkin
About Art and War
The New Wave of Ukrainian Cinema
Filmmaker from the Frontline
YOU CAN HELP UKRAINIAN FILMMAKERS BY DONATING TO THE SPECIAL ACCOUN OF ACCOUNT THE UKRAINIAN STATE FILM AGENCY
CATALOGUE OF UKRAINIAN FILMS AND SERVICES 2022 THE UKRAINIAN PAVILION, MARCHÉ DU FILM 2022, VILLAGE INTERNATIONAL RIVIERA 111, CANNES
No More War! Since Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, our film community has become an integral part of Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression. From the very first days of the war, industry experts organized themselves and took action. Many of them have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine or the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, and are defending our freedom at the front. Some of them decided to use cameras as a weapon, and are now in the hot spots of our country documenting everything happening. Some are involved in volunteering: producers, screenwriters, actors, and specialized experts are now responsible for delivering humanitarian aid to Ukrainians and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As for film production, the vast majority of projects are currently frozen under the current conditions of martial law. The only exception is the films that are in the final stage of production – postproduction. We are negotiating with our European partners to help finance projects in the final stages of production – we do our best to ensure that the film production process does not stop completely. Of course, the first thing we need now is the world’s attention on Ukraine, which is suffering from the military aggression of the Russian Federation. Attention on the crimes that take place in our homeland in real time. Since 2008, the Ukrainian film industry has been annually represented at the Marché du Film in Cannes. In these difficult times, we are doing everything possible to have our official representation at this event, so that the world can see our culture and identity, so that it can resist the influence of Russian propaganda in the cultural space. We are categorically opposed to the position of the Cannes Film Festival to include the work of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov to the Main Competition program this year. The full-scale brutal war in Ukraine continues. Today, it is inadmissible to allow representatives of an aggressor country to participate in the international arena. The simultaneous representation of Russia – the aggressor country – and Ukraine on one platform, is unacceptable, and will shift the focus from the horrors of war and the struggle of Ukrainians for their identity to Russian propaganda about cultural reconciliation. This year two world premieres, two powerful Ukrainian films of young Ukrainian directors are included in the competition programmes of the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival: Maksym Nakonechny’s debut Butterfly Vision in the Un Certain Regard section, and Dmytro Sukholytsky-Sobchuk’s debut film Pamfir in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. Both films were created with the support of the Ukrainian State Film Agency. Also, this year, the main initiatives of the Marché du Film – Goes to Cannes, Cannes Docs Showcase and Producers Network – are aimed at projects and film professionals from Ukraine. Today we have a unique chance to draw attention to Ukrainian cinematography. Ukraine is now a great example of the struggle for freedom and liberty. We believe we will win: our today’s heroes will inspire new generations all over the world!
Marina Kuderchuk, Head of Ukrainian State Film Agency
PRODUCER Darya Bassel – Weapons & Cameras
EVENT Ukraine in Focus
10 COVER STORY Rock in a Hard Place.
About his Film Pamfir
14 IN FOCUS Vladimir Yatsenko Art, War & Politics
20 TALENT Marysia Nikitiuk
A Painful Picture of the Reality
24 DOCS Serhiy Bukovsky and Mykola Bazarkin Stand up for the Homeland
10 Photos by Vadym Ilkov, KAMA, Anton Kuleba
Ukrainian Film is published by the Estonian Film Institute Editor in Chief: Eda Koppel Contributing Editor: Maria Ulfsak (Eesti Ekspress) Contributors: Andrei Liimets, Tristan Priimägi, Filipp Kruusvall Linguistic Editing: Paul Emmet Design & Layout: Profimeedia Printed by Reflekt Cover: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk photo by Valentyna Lykiantseva UKRAINIAN FILM
Darya Bassel is an internationally known and successful Ukrainian film producer who also works as the head of industry of Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival (Kyiv). She’s also one of the producers of the Butterfly Dream by Maksym Nakonechny, premiering in Un Certain Regard in Cannes. By Maria Ulfsak Photo by Vadym Ilkov
arya, where are you at the moment? Are you and your family safe? (The interview was conducted on April 20th, 2022. -ed.)
Right now, I’m in Ivano-Frankivsk, it’s a beautiful small city in the West of Ukraine. But tomorrow I’m moving back to Kyiv. I am safe and my family too. My parents are in Odesa, they decided not to move. You have been working both as a programmer for Docudays film festival, and as a successful film producer. In what form and how are you working at the moment? And under such enormous stress - how do you mentally cope?
For the last couple of years, I’ve been shifting my activities at Docudays UA from the program department to the industry section. This also corresponds with my increased activity in the field of film production. Together with my colleague Vika Khomenko (producer of the award-winning film Stop-Zemlya), we started Moon Man production company in 2019, and since then life has been a roller coaster. It’s complicated to combine
work at the festival and producing films, but I cannot imagine leaving the festival. I have spent 10 years of my life there, and it’s more than just a job. It’s funny, while the life of many filmmakers in Ukraine drastically changed since the beginning of the war - many joined the army, or became active volunteers, or started working as fixers with international journalists - my life is almost the same, only more work. In addition to taking care of our ongoing productions, and completed films (we just had a release of the first film of our production company at CPH:DOX - Outside directed by Olha Zhurba), together with colleagues from Ukraine and abroad we started an initiative for documentary filmmakers who are actively shooting war and its consequences. It’s called Docu/Help and I invite everyone who wants to support Ukrainian documentary filmmakers to donate. We’ve bought equipment, vests, helmets, medical kits, gas masks. Now we are thinking about starting a call with small grants. We see that after almost 2 months of war a lot of filmmakers just need some support for basics: food, transport, flat rent.
PRODUCER The Editorial Office - Roman Bondar chuk, director, together with Vadym Ilkov, director of photography. © Oleksandr Techinskyi Rita Burkovska as Lilia in Butterfly Vision (dir. Maksym Nakonechnyi). © Anastasia Vlasova
Ukrainian artists no longer have this luxury to just be artists. They are citizens. They stand for Ukraine, whether with weapons or cameras in their hands. I read your statement from Cineuropa that was published in the beginning of March where you were very worried about Ukrainian voices still being ignored on the international cultural scene. Almost two months has passed, and the war is getting worse. Do you still feel the same?
I actually do. The more we talk about Ukraine, the more the cultural world community talks about Russia. It would be interesting to understand why. Maybe because Russia is investing a lot of money in its international cultural representation, and international institutions and organizations do not feel comfortable to break these ‘effective’ connections? While big businesses are leaving Russia, while governments stop buying Russian gas and coal, film festivals and other cultural events seem to be totally disconnected from reality. They say we are ‘above’ this, culture is not politics. You know what I think about this? It’s a luxury to have the possibility to take such a position. You don’t have the luxury of being apolitical, or think that art and films exist in another universe, where we
all can calmly reflect as friends on the genocide that is happening right now in front of our eyes. When it’s about your life or death, you don’t have this luxury. You know deep inside that culture is politics. Ukrainian artists no longer have this luxury to just be artists. They are citizens. They stand for Ukraine, whether with weapons or cameras in their hands. It’s very naive to believe that culture
Outside by Ukrainian director Olha Zhurba.
doesn’t interest the government as a tool of influence. And while you are watching Russian films you stay under the influence of Russia. It’s only the question about how conscious you want to be about this. Do you have the luxury to stay any longer in the illusion of a culture’s political neutrality? You have been helping European festivals select recent Ukrainian films to keep Russia’s war in Ukraine from falling out of the news headlines. Are the festivals doing enough?
Since the beginning of the war, we’ve received dozens of words of support and offers to host screenings of Ukrainian films from our international friends. We are extremely thankful, I cannot put into
words how overwhelming it is to know we are part of such a wonderful community. At the same time, I am sad to witness that not many of our colleagues are ready to really go deep and do some research on the war and the reasons for it. I saw terrible films, which are literally anti-Ukrainian, in some programs that were created to support Ukraine. That’s why we’re really happy to help with the selection and give our commentary on the films. But we also realized that it’s important not only to screen films, but to organize talks and public discussions about the ongoing war and its context, to reveal the Ukrainian perspective on these issues.
pictures). We will present it at the PÖFF goes to Cannes. Olha Zhurba, a filmmaker whose debut documentary we’ve just released at CPH:DOX, is shooting a new doc film now. It’s about refugees. The cinematography is just stunning. We already have some partners attached to this project, but since financing in Ukraine won’t be possible for the next year at least, we’re looking for more funding opportunities. Also, if not for the war right now, we’d be in active pre-production with the project Stan, by first time filmmaker
Nikon Romanchenko (editor of Berlinale winner Stop-Zemlya). This film got support from the Ukrainian State Film Agency, but the war changed our plans and now Nikon is preparing to re-write the script and we will start fundraising. It’s a very tender story of first love and first disappointment. I’m really looking forward to gaining new knowledge and experiences and meeting good friends. The more I work in the production of indie films, the more I see that it is only possible if your colleagues are in a way your soulmates. EF
We as the European film community - what else do you think we should do to help Ukrainian filmmakers that has not been done yet? As individuals, and as a community?
The best help to Ukrainian filmmakers, as well as to every citizen of Ukraine, would be to stop the war. When our country will be at peace again, we can manage. We were actually doing not bad before Russia started the genocide of our nation. So, please help us stop the war! Stop Russia on all levels: do not use its gas and oil, do not use its products of any kind! Do not consume its cultural products. Only in full isolation, on the verge of a catastrophe, can Russian people and all the other nations occupied by Russia raise their heads and finally make a revolution. And push your governments to send Ukraine more weapons - our army needs it to defend the lives of innocent people. You will be an external participant at the Producers on the Move programme at Cannes this year. It is a programme providing a solid and visible platform for the next generation of European filmmakers. What projects are you currently working on, and what are your goals there?
We had several projects that were disrupted by the war, and I don’t know if we have the possibility to resume them. However, we still have three projects in different stages of production. The Editorial Office, the second feature of an award-winning filmmaker Roman Bondarchuk, is in post-production. It’s a co-production with Germany (Elemag
Darya Bassel and Vadym Ilkov at Ukrainian Film Academy Awards Night in 2019.
When We Were 15
Ukraine in Focus The Estonian film industry has come out strongly in support of Ukraine and its film professionals. Among a raft of initiatives announced, a Ukraine in Focus programme is planned in Cannes this May, with Estonian organisations including Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) and the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) instrumental in its organisation.
TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS GOES TO CANNES For the second year in a row, PÖFF has joined the Marché du Film’s well-established Goes To Cannes strand, showcasing projects in development seeking sales agents. This year, in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the PÖFF team made the decision to exclusively select Ukrainian projects for this year’s edition.
The Editorial Office ( ) Directed by: Roman Bondarchuk Produced by: Darya Bassel (Moon Man), Darya Averchenko (South Films) & Tanja Georgieva-Waldhauer (Elemag pictures). Countries of production: Ukraine, Germany
By William Smith
ith the aid of other international partners including the Marché du Film itself, European Film Promotion and European Commission, Ukrainian filmmakers and producers will have networking, pitching and co-financing opportunities across May 21st and 22nd. The full schedule for Ukraine in Focus includes Black Nights Goes to Cannes, Ukrainian Films Now, Ukrainian Features Preview, Cannes Docs and Producers Network activities.
The Editorial Office
The Glass House
The Glass House ( ) Directed by: Taras Dron Produced by: Igor Savychenko (Directory films), Valeria Sochyvets (Contemporary Ukrainian Cinema), Rodrigo Ruiz Tarazona (Cinelab), Taras Dron (Nord Production) Countries of production: Ukraine, Romania
Do You Love Me? Directed by: Tonia Noyabrova Produced by: Anastasiia Bukovska, Danylo Kaptyukh (Family Production) Country of production: Ukraine Demons ( ) Directed by: Natalka Vorozhbyt Produced by: Dmytro Minzianov (Kristi Film), Denis Ivanov (Arthouse Traffic) Country of production: Ukraine Chrysantemum Day ( ) Directed by: Simon Mozgovyi Produced by: Alex Chepiga, Artem Koliubaiev, Daryna Zakharova, Kateryna Lachyna (Mainstream Pictures LLC) Countries of production: Ukraine, North Macedonia
UKRAINIAN FEATURES PREVIEW PÖFF and the Marché du Film additionally present four Ukrainian feature films nearing release including:
Rock. Paper. Grenade Director: Iryna Tsilyk Producers: Vladimir Yatsenko & Anna Yatsenko (ForeFilms) When We Were 15 Director: Anna Buryachkova Producers: Natalia Libet & Vitalii Sheremetiev (Digital Religion) Lapalissade Director: Filip Sotnychenko Producers: Halyna Kryvorchuk (Viatel), Valeria Sotnychenko & Sashko Chubko (Contemporary Ukrainian Cinema)
Lucky Girl Director: Marysia Nikitiuk Producers: Yanina Sokolova and Julia Sinkevych (Yanina Sokolova Production) UKRAINE IN FOCUS ACTIVITIES The Ukrainian Films Now section, partnering with First Cut Lab, FVG Audiovisual Fund and EAVE, will highlight 8 to 10 Ukrainian features in order to fast track post-production work. Docs in Progress, a collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute and Festival DocuDays, will showcase four projects: Company of Steel directed by Yuliia Hontaruk, Lagoons. Battle for Paradise directed by Serhii Lysenko, Listening to the World directed by Liza Smith and Peace for Nina directed by Zhanna Maksymenko-Dovhych. Six producers from Ukraine will join the Producers’ Network initiative: Denis Ivanov (Arthouse Traffic), Darya Bassel (Moon Man), Natalia Libet (Digital Religion), Sashko Chubko (Pronto Film), Olga Beskhmelnytsina (ESSE Production House) and Vladimir Yatsenko (ForeFilms). Ukrainian films selected to screen in the Cannes programme include Maksim Nakonechnyi’s Butterfly Vision in Un Certain Regard, Dmytro SukholytkyySobchuk’s debut feature Pamfir in Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, and Sergei Loznitsa’s The Natural Hisotry of Destruction which will have a special screening this May. EF
Rock. Paper. Grenade
in a Hard Place This May, the new, vibrant Ukrainian feature film Pamfir will be premiered in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section of Cannes Film Festival. It is a crime story with an ethnic bent that takes place in Ukraine, near the Romanian border, and shows a man, who has been working abroad for a long time, returning home where he’s forced by the circumstances to pick up his old trade of smuggling to pay some debts and settle some scores. On this occasion, we had a brief talk with the film’s director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk. By Tristan Priimägi Photos by Anton Kuleba
Your main character is a man who is confronted with very difficult choices. What drew you to that kind of character, where did he come from?
First, I want to say that the folklore elements are more like a background. It’s important for the identification – of my characters, of myself – but I don’t want to set is as the main thing in my film. The main things are my characters’ personality and human destiny. The events take place in a very special area, a place I am from, Bukovina. It’s a region on the Ukrainian-Romanian border, and we also have a border with Moldova nearby, so it is a place where you can see that life is multi-cultural, and this has an influence on a persona. When you depart this area, one lives with the perpetual feeling that one belongs to the place. During the shooting and preparation, I was thinking I should show the local flavour as part of their life – what they do, how they live, what they love. It has a very strong influence on regular life.
When you have a person, who you want to find something out about, then you will most likely start talking to this person in real life. They might give you a very subjective account of the moments in their life when their destiny took a turning point, and everything changed. The character who we meet has had his turning points in the past, and he also has them now, in the present. It was important for me to show someone who has become more powerful because of those choices, and if you put a choice in front of him, he can make the hardest decision. It’s something that connects you to a very existential level of a human being. We all go through these turning points in our life. In this story, I tried to show that in the main scenes, emotional moments, we see how this existential surge goes through this powerful person, and how he manages the situation, and how he goes
mytro, Pamfir is a film with a distinct feel because of the traditional folk elements and themes in the film. How did you come to use these?
Director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk working on the set of Pamfir.
on living with his choices. The decision he makes is neither bad nor good, it just needs to be made for his family. A situation where a person with a strong personality can make this choice, and take the responsibility on himself. For more than two years, I was looking for someone who could play this character, and finally I found Oleksandr Yatsentyuk. He’s a professional actor, and Pamfir is his debut film. He had played in some shorts and TV series before. He had a very deep and strong paternal characteristic. Like someone who can take care of you. Of himself, and people who depend on him. I was lucky to find him. In the film, there is one short reference to his alias, Pamfir, just briefly.
Everybody asks what his name means but I wanted to have it like that in the film – only referred to once, a couple of seconds. My idea was also that the person is more important than the exact meaning of his name. Do you see Pamfir and his situation as something that is descriptive of the war situation in Ukraine in general, or an allegory in some way?
Yes, for sure. When we look at Pamfir, we might find out through
him why our soldiers, volunteers, and warriors are so strong, brave, unbreakable. Also, everybody else, who has stood through Maidan, or survived Russian aggression. I would say it’s typical of the Ukrainian mentality to stand our own ground – the land, the nation, community, family. There is a scene in the film between Pamfir and his son, where the son proposes to sell his bike in order to pay the debt. In the background, we see scenes from Maidan on TV. Our film takes place before the Ukrainian war we are in right now, but we refer to the conflict as part of their life. There is also a similar connection between the twin brothers and Pamfir, because the twins’ father had been Pamfir’s friend but was killed in Donbass by Russians. It’s there, but only in the background. Did the shooting period turn out to be what you expected? Did the story shift in the process?
We had a very long rehearsal period, almost three months, so our preparation during rehearsals was very detailed. We also practised all the camera movements. We planned the one-shot scenes very carefully. We definitely had some changes during the shooting and some surprises, but we relied on dramaturgy, and had a pretty good
According to Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, the preparation during rehearsals for Pamfir was very detailed.
idea of how the characters would react in a certain situation. Another thing: we shot this movie on an iPhone first, and then filmed it for real, so we would know in advance, exactly, how the scenes are going to look. It was like some choreography exercise with everybody, the actors, the DoP, the crew. The long shots in the film are really amazing and you use them quite freely. Did you have the idea from the start that you would like to tell a story via long shots and use less cutting?
It was planned from the beginning. For me, it was very important to tell the story through pictures, like paintings. If I could compare it to something, we tried to get the ef-
What are your expectations of Cannes? Will you be there?
Yes, I hope I will get permission and can be there. For me, the sense of a normal life has almost disappeared by now, so, Cannes and life there, is like a bridge to a memory of a peaceful life, connecting it with my own life, my family, my surroundings. All in all, we can accept that this normalcy
has shown up in our life again, and we can show in Cannes what kind of a unique reality we have in Ukraine, and also the unique character of our nation. To share this will be a pleasure and an honour. I want to share who we are, and maybe, in this context, the audience will understand why we stand so bravely. Will you be using Cannes as a platform for relaying some sort of a message?
Definitely. For me, it’s a platform where I can talk mostly about my country, our situation. For Ukraine, it’s extremely important to have a voice in the international arena, and right now it doesn’t matter who you are – a director, a writer, or a medicine worker. If we have the possibility to address an international audience, it will be about what is happening in our country, what our country is going through, and what steps should be taken to stop Russian aggression. What is the documentary project you mentioned in the beginning?
I am making a documentary about sculptors who started to make anti-tank obstacles during the Ukrainian war. It’s for The New Yorker, I am working with them at the moment. EF
It was a hard production cycle because of COVID firstly, and then the war. It was a tough journey for all of us, and I hope our hard work will be rewarded. It’s a really good film, and I’m really glad that Sasha asked me to be part of the team. It’s a really great opportunity for Ukraine to be selected in the Cannes programme, because it gives us a chance to explain to the world what is happening. I am now the Head of the Film Board at the Ukrainian Film Fund, in charge of all Ukrainian cinematography. And now we are trying to explain to the world that we need to stop Russian propaganda, and Russian films in all festivals, because this has become a tool of manipulation. For Russia to be presented in the official selection of Cannes is very bad for Ukraine. We plan to boycott them and initiate some activities to protect our Ukrainian culture.
Photo by Mainstream Pictures
fect of works by Hieronymus Bosch. For me, it was important to put my character in situations where you could see that it is one “scene” from his life. Every episode is like a snapshot of his life – like a Brueghel painting. The story we tell should link with the moment, and we should identify with this person. We should be linked with his situation, and we cannot cut mid-scene, because we might cut away from something that may be important for him, and we lose the focus. The direction was just to film the scenes and identify which parts we could leave intact, without editing. In only one scene, with the singing in the church, we break the rules. The choir song is still in real time, 4.5 minutes, but we cut between the choir and the parents. But the viewer still remains in the moment, with the singer, we do not break time. The song is like a long take beneath, uniting the scene.
Artem Koliubaiev co-producer, Ukraine:
Aleksandra Kostina producer, Ukraine: Pamfir was shot during COVID times, from October 2020 to February 2021. The whole film was shot on location, in the Carpathian Mountains. We made two trips, because we needed to have different seasons in the film. The weather distinguishes the three acts of the film. A beautiful beginning of the story characterized by a golden Autumn, the weather turns damp and muddy in late Autumn, when the protagonist gets stuck in problems, and in the finale, everything is covered with snow… Photo by Valentyna Lykiantseva
For Ukraine, it’s extremely important to have a voice in the international arena.
PAMFIR • A fiction feature film, 106 min, Ukrainian-FrenchPolish-Chilean co-production. • Producers Aleksandra Kostina (Bosonfilm, UA); Jane Yatsuta, Laura Briand (Les Films d’Ici, FR); Bogna Szewczyk, Klaudia Smieja-Rostworowska (Madants, PL); Giancarlo Nasi Quijote Films (CL). Co-producers Artem Koliubaiev (Mainstream Pictures, UA), Adolf El Assal (Wady Films, LU), Adam Gudell (Moderator Investycje, PL), Alyona Tymoshenko (UA), Silvana Santamaria (DE). • Directed by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk; cinematographer Nikita Kuzmenko; editor Nikodem Chabior; composer Laëtitia Pansanel-Garric; sound design by Serhiy Stepanskyy, Matthieu Deniau. The main cast: Oleksandr Yatsentyuk, Stanislav Potiak, Solomiya Kyrylova, Olena Khokhlatkina, Myroslav Makoviychuk, Ivan Sharan. UKRAINIAN FILM
Art, War & Politics Vladimir Yatsenko has produced multiple films in recent years, showing a country ravaged by war on its Eastern borders. With the Russian invasion in 2022, guns have replaced cameras for many Ukrainian filmmakers. Yatsenko is one of them. By Andrei Liimets Photo by Aleksandra York
’m going to have to start with a rather stupid question. How are you and how have you been for the past two months?
It’s been a strange time with different universes mashed into one somehow. Right before the Russian invasion I was discussing with my friends if it would happen or not. Everything hinted at it, but it was almost impossible to believe because it’s so crazy. I said to my wife that we have to leave so we jumped into the car, grabbed our grandfathers, grandmothers, cats, dogs, kids – everyone – and moved to Western Ukraine. They started the invasion 4 or 5 hours later so we were very lucky. We were also lucky to find a small wooden house which was like a Noah’s ark. The next day I had a long conversation with my wife who is pregnant, and we are expecting a boy in the middle of September. We have two other kids, so it was quite a complicated conversation, but the next day I moved back to Kyiv with some of my friends and we started discussing what we could do. We started shooting material about
what’s going on around us, just to be witnesses. We decided whatever we would shoot would be free of copyright to everyone just to spread it as much as we can. We started shooting short videos on the frontlines, and one of our videos from Irpin was taken by CNN, and people all around the world saw it. Since then, working with the press corps has become complicated because Russians started searching and shooting everyone with the press signs, and the Ukrainian soldiers don’t want to allow you to be on the frontline and to get in trouble. After Butcha, we felt it would be impossible to only be witnesses, so we decided to join the mobilisation. Now we are part of the military intelligence service, but we are not trained like special forces, so we do not join all the missions. You had a couple of films in post-production before the war, so everything is on pause?
It’s crazy! A couple of times we managed to go to Western Ukraine for a couple of days to see relatives, and it’s a different world. We
still have a big company which is not working now, we are just paying salaries to the people from our own pocket, because they don’t have any other source to live. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to do it. We have at least two films that have approval from A-class festivals this year, and to be honest, I don’t know how we’ll be able to make the premieres with me probably not able to leave the country. It’s just very complicated to switch between things because, you know, you’re on the frontline and then you’ll get a call about if you made an application to a festival. At the same time, it helps you not to go insane. We all try to adapt to the situation, but it’s getting more and more crazy. Many filmmakers try to avoid politics or keep art and politics separate. Most of the films you have produced are political in some sense. Has this been a conscious choice?
Art is part of our life, and politics is part of life. You can’t divide them. I was very disappointed by the UKRAINIAN FILM
Photo by Pavlo Shevchuk
Cannes Film Festival because they put on a film called Z. (The title of the film by Michel Hazanavicius has been changed to Final Cut after the making of this interview – ed.). Z has become a symbol of the neo-Nazis, and for me it’s just a play on some hype, which is immoral because this film had a different name before and now it became Z. The Russian press put it down as their victory, that these stupid Europeans are so weak, they put Z on top of the biggest film festival in the world. Then they are screening the new film by Kirill Serebrennikov. Fine, now he is a dissident, but earlier he worked with Surkov (Vladislav Surkov is considered as one of the main ideologues for Vladimir Putin – ed.), who is one of the architects of this Nazi regime. They are real friends. He got the money for this film from Abramovich (Roman Abramovich is one of the key oligarchs in favour with the
Vladimir Yatsenko and the film team on the set of U Are the Universe
Russian regime – ed.). When they say it is not political and it’s just art, that’s not true. There’s a sad double standard. It’s very rare when I can agree with Russians, but at this point, I agree that a lot of Western countries build societies on safe con-
I agree that a lot of Western countries build societies on safe consumption. Nobody is ready to fight or raise a voice for their principles, never mind die for them. 16
sumption. Nobody is ready to fight or raise a voice for their principles, never mind die for them. This is incredible, and I think the reason Putin decided to go ahead with the war; thinking Europe is very weak, they only count money, they don’t care. And this is why he was surprised, and I was surprised in a good way about the common response. But from the cultural standpoint, it’s really strange that the largest film festival supports people who are friends with Surkov, or get money from Abramovich. Or Sergei Loznitsa, who said that okay, guys, all the Ukrainians must take responsibility for Babi Yar (a site in Kiev where at least 100,000 people were massacred during WWII – ed.), but no one from Russia takes responsibility for what’s going now. This is a kind of double standard which we are dying for right now. We are talking about the great Russian culture, but at the same time we are having people who grew up with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy shooting children on the
street. I’m sorry, it’s impossible to accept it. There’s probably something wrong with the culture itself, because it’s all part of the same colonial, imperial approach. Building on this cultural background, the new imperial mindset was built in Russia. (Vladimir’s speech turns faster and voice very ironic – ed.) I was a representative of Ukraine at Eurimages, and we had a huge fight just to throw Russia out from it. We’ve been supported by Baltic countries and are very grateful, but it was a big discussion. They called me and I was on the frontline, where a few minutes ago I had been hiding from artillery fire. And then we discussed if Russians should stay! Yeah, probably, yes! It’s a simple choice and sometimes it’s super simple, because it’s black and white. Later we can discuss the fifty shades of grey, but not now, not when there is war going on. What about the mindset of Ukrainian culture and films?
We are like teenagers sometimes, because as a nation we are teenagers. We are learning a lot. 10 years ago, nobody knew who the sales agents were, how the festivals worked. We’ve been learning, but it takes time. We’re doing it as fast as
ing novel by Serhii Zhadan. It says a lot about people who live in these territories in Donbass. I really believe some of the most interesting things and approaches are born only when there are clashes between these big tectonic plates, like between Europe and Asia, where different cultures clash and something new can be born.
we can. It takes time to shoot one film, a second film, third film, to make your own mistakes, to grow up as an artist. How would you describe the state of Ukrainian cinema before the invasion?
Great. Probably every big A-class festival had Ukrainian films. Not so long ago it was like wow, a Ukrainian film at Cannes! And everyone was going: oh my god! Now it’s normal. That means the industry has developed. But now the national film fund will not get any grivnas from the state budget, and of course that’s understandable. We have to spend the money on weapons. It’s not about culture, but about our existence. Interest in Ukrainian culture has increased due to the war. Are there any films you would suggest people see to understand Ukraine and Ukrainians?
In most of our films we say something about what’s going on right now. Reflection (dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych, 2021), Atlantis (dir. Valentyn Vasyanovych, 2019), Homeward (dir. Nariman Aliev, 2019), or even The Wild Fields (dir. Yaroslav Lodygin, 2018) that premiered at Black Nights Film Festival, and is based on an amaz-
Not mentioning the war, what would you say are the main challenges for Ukrainian cinema?
Atlantis is a 2019 Ukrainian dystopian post-apocalyptic film directed by Valentyn Vasyanovych. It won the award for Best Film in the Horizons section at the 76th Venice International Film Festival. Yatsenko is one of the producers of the film.
The biggest issue is that after the war I don’t want us to be just the victims. I see it in the Balkan films, that they still have the trauma, and for us it’s going to be a huge trauma as well, but you can’t think only that. Recently I watched an amazing film Father, which is as simple as the Bible, and you really feel it. That’s something I really want us to do. Some Ukrainian films about war have been illuminating and prophetic – Atlantis is one example…
Absolutely! I joked to the director Valentyn Vasyanovych: motherfucker, why did you set the Ukrainian victory taking place in 2025, why not 2023, it’s too far away!
Photo by Anna Yatsenko
Film producer Vladimir Yatsenko with his family before the war.
… and Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass as well. In 2018 I thought it was a good film, I didn’t think it was a great film, it seemed even too cynical. Now it seems as the defining film of the war.
You’re absolutely right! But I don’t really like Loznitsa’s films, only because he’s very Russian in a way, like Dostoevsky he doesn’t like people. There’s no kind of empathy, people seem like small ants. I prefer Chekhov who loves people! Where are you mentally at the moment? Are you afraid?
I’m thinking about the fighting which we’ll definitely partake in. Of course, I’m afraid to be killed. Not because of me, I’ve had a great life, but because of my wife. I don’t want my children to be raised without a father. And I’m afraid of not being brave enough, of being imprisoned.
But when you’re on the frontline, it’s not that much scarier than when you’re outside. I’m much more scared here. It was the same at Maidan, because then you are doing something. You’re terrified when you read these things on the news, and it takes energy to be terrified. It’s easier to fight and even die than just to be terrified. Some Ukrainian men escaped the country, which is illegal, and I can’t imagine what kind of personal hell they will live in later. What would you like to say to the international film community and everyone who wants to support Ukraine?
Generally, I would like to say two things: be brave and be kind. It’s important to be brave to raise your voice if you feel something bad is happening in your country or in
other countries, it’s important not to be silent. A lot of my former friends in Russia were silent all these years and now they ask: what can we do right now. You lose your dignity drop by drop and end up devastated. Of course, you can lose some money or some steps in your career, but believe me, it’s worth it. And be kind, because it’s important to help each other. We don’t know who will be next. I’m grateful to everyone who helps our wives and our kids and our mothers in different countries, because right now we can’t take care of them. I really appreciate it. EF
Vladimir Yatsenko born in Donbas, Ukraine, 43 years old. He graduated from the Kyiv National Economic University, as an economist and also from the Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University as a producer. In 2005 he co-founded the production company Limelite. During 15 years Limelite produced more than 600 commercials and several feature films. In 2020 Vladimir decided to divide the commercials and feature films and he founded the film production company ForeFilms as the co-owner and general producer. The company has several projects in different stages of production directed by well known but also debut directors. He is a former Head of the Film Industry Association of Ukraine, and also is a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Motion Picture Arts and the European Film Academy. From January 2020 Vladimir became the first representative of Ukraine in Eurimages. He has participated in several training programmes including EAVE, ACE and Midpoint. Selected filmography: Rock. Paper. Grenade (producer, 2022) by Iryna Tsylik Reflection (producer, 2021) by Valentyn Vasyanovych, premiere at Venice FF main competition. Homeward (producer, 2019), by Nariman Aliev, premiere at Cannes FF Un Certain Regard selection Atlantis (co-producer, 2019), by Valentyn Vasyanovych, premiere at Venice FF, Orizzonti programme, The Best Film award Invisible (co-producer, 2019), by Ignas Jonynas, premiere at San Sebastian FF The Wild Fields (producer, 2018) by Yaroslav Lodygin, premiere at Black Nights FF
THE EDITORIAL OFFICE CHRYSANTEMUM DAY THE GLASS HOUSE DO YOU LOVE ME? DEMONS
TALLINN BLACK NIGHTS
SATURDAY MAY 21 | 14:15-16:15
A PAINFUL PICTURE OF THE REALITY Among the new wave of Ukrainian filmmakers, Marysia Nikitiuk has made one of the most striking debuts. Her 2018 drama When the Trees Fall, a harrowing yet poetic tale about the spiral of crime, generational oppression, and subjugation of women in the Ukrainian countryside, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. By Andrei Liimets Photos by the Lucky Girl film team
t’s difficult not to start with the ongoing war. How have you been able to remain safe?
“I don’t know how it’s going tobe after the war, but I hope we’ll find the courage to look at each other through art,” says Marysia Nikitiuk.
At the moment, I’m so-so safe, staying in Ivano-Frankivsk in Western Ukraine. The city was bombed, and we have a lot of sirens here. I escaped from Kyiv on the 25th of February. There was a lot of traffic, and the city was paralyzed. I didn’t want to go away, but my parents insisted that me and my boyfriend leave. After that I stayed in a small village, which was interesting for a city girl. For the first week we didn´t have anything, because there was one small shop which was completely bought empty. There was no cash because there were no vehicles to fill the bank automats. Then I got the feeling nothing would be like before,
which was quite depressing. We tried to help the refugees and people coming to the small hostel where we were. In general, I felt quite useless though. I did what I know how to do – I filmed with my phone, talked to refugees, and I started to write poems in the third week to help myself psychologically. Have you managed to get any work done, or is film something you haven’t really thought about much?
I’m finishing my second feature film. We needed to finish the sound, but then the war started. We have our material in Lviv, and are looking into possibilities to finish the work in Poland or Germany. During the first days of the war, it seemed impossible to understand how one can make films. You need to talk about this situation, about what has happened in Butcha, and Irpin, and all these people being raped and killed. You understand it will be needed to be rethought through art, but you are so shocked you can’t understand how this can be. Art is something that thrives on reality, but the reality is so damaging and cruel you can’t let it get inside you it all go through you. I started writing poems and collecting some stories, and ideas, and points of view. I try to think about them, what to do with them after the war. There’s also the feeling that if you think about some-
thing after the war, you’re a traitor. I’m not a warrior. I love my job more than anything in the world, it’s something that gives me value for myself. But I know my films don’t save lives and I feel bad. When the Trees Fall deals with violence on multiple levels – physical violence, male violence, psychological violence between generations. Has making that film and having thought about these topics helped you in any way understand the conflict, and what drives the violence and hatred in people?
We just had a free screening here, and I watched it for the first time in over a year. And I cried, because compared to what’s happening now it seemed like a fairy tale. I have had this feeling all my life that I am stressed by this echo of violence from the 1990s. My parents did a lot to keep me safe from the cruelty of this period, but I saw a lot of psychological violence among other families and my relatives. When I was a child, I was scared of how people can ruin their lives by themselves. That it’s part of a social order which you need to obey. When I started to think about it more consciously, I understood that it came from the Soviet Union. What we see now in Russia is a return of the virus of Nazism and the totalitarian society. Of Lenin and UKRAINIAN FILM
TALENT Russians went back. This is the main problem why we have a war now. They don’t want us to think in another way. But with war, they have made us think in another way much faster. You studied international relations and theatre criticism. How and why did you end up in filmmaking?
Stalin. We know how awful their repressions were. A genocide was carried out in Ukraine, most visible during the Holodomor in 1932 and 1933. My grandmother had two daughters and seven sons, and all the boys died during the famine. After that they killed a lot of socially active people – writers, politicians, directors. You had to be very subservient. If someone seemed to be better than others, you could just write anonymously to the police, and they would be taken to the Gulag. Over the years, the national paradigm changed to the worse you are, the better you are. They raised a generation of people who thought violence is normal, that it is something that needs to exist in society. When I was growing up, I didn’t know all that. I was scared of what I saw. Then I lived in Italy for a year when I was 10 years old, and I saw that a society could be normal. Back in Ukraine, I couldn’t wear colourful dresses because people would say you’re a freak, an idiot, a stupid girl, and that would be normal. This is the collective mental problem of the Ukrainian society, a present from the Soviet Union. Step by step we have been trying to fix this. Very slowly for me, because I wanted to live in a European Ukraine 10 years ago, even 20 years ago. I wanted to be in this beautiful country that Ukraine can be, because we have a lot of beauti-
Marysia Nikitiuk and Sergiy Mykhalchuk (DoP) and the film crew, on set of Lucky Girl.
ful people, a lot of ideas; compared to Russians we are more anarchic, we are not used to a totalitarian system. That’s why we fought Yanukovych and made huge steps to become a better society, that can make business honestly, and make films about what you want to. When the Trees Fall is a film about these mental problems, and the post-Soviet way of changing people, making them become slaves. Becoming homo sovieticus?
Yes! My mother hated the Soviet Union so much that when I was small we didn’t even watch Soviet films, which were propaganda – ugly films about ugly men. My generation went quite far from this Soviet way of thinking, but the
Quite accidentally. I have been writing since I was 13, and thought I was a Bukowski or a Virginia Woolf, because I was published as a teenager. I dreamed about becoming a writer, but we didn’t have normal universities, so I went into international journalism in 2003. At the time, there was very little freedom of expression in Ukraine, and journalists on TV received instuctions where it said what you had to say, and what you couldn’t. I lost my romantic idea of journalism and was so depressed about this. Then I went to see a theatre play by the Lithuanian director Eimuntas Nekrošius, and I was astonished and shocked that someone could do these visual metaphors on a stage. I fell in love with theatre, and I went to study to become a theatre scientist, to analyse theatre. I worked for six years as a critic. In film, there were very few scriptwriters, so they asked for texts from playwrights. That’s how I ended up in a workshop for short films. I started to write scripts for young directors, but I didn’t know much about how my texts became a film. I wasn’t very satisfied with
how I wrote one thing, and they made it into something else. I had a picture in my head, and it changed a lot. I was quite naïve and called a friend to tell him: oh my God, what have they made! And he said: come on, Marysia, shoot a short film yourself and then you’ll understand how directors work, and how a lot of stuff changes for different reasons. And I found that directing along with writing is something that makes me feel alive and happy. When the Trees Fall is quite critical towards Ukrainian society, or at least some aspects of it. I know it was well received at various festivals but how was it received in Ukraine?
It wasn’t received very well. We had trouble with distribution, and not many people watch art films. However, there was already a small arthouse audience, and they were engaged. I was afraid my mother would kill me because I used the name of her mother, but she liked it. But some of my relatives from outside Kyiv asked me why I showed Ukraine in a bad way. They thought the film was strange because of the dream scenes, and asked me if I take drugs. They’ve kept on calling my mum and asking if Marysia is okay, and if she’s not taking drugs anymore. The problem with the audience in Ukraine is that after the fall of the Soviet Union, all the institutions that had helped make films closed. Some films were made in 90s out of inertia, but in general,
cinemas were showing arthouse films we couldn’t see before. Then we started getting American and Chinese B-movies, and Ukrainian films pretty much stopped until 2011. We had a big gap in directing. The Ukrainian audience was adapted to see foreign films, action films about saving the world. People learned to go to the cinema not to discover what’s going on, but to see a fairy tale, to look away from the reality. I don’t know how it’s going to be after the war, but I hope we’ll find the courage to look at each other through art. It’s a collective psychoanalysis for the society. You have to work with the mental body of a nation, otherwise you will fall into illusions like the Russians did about their great culture, great Lucky Girl
Marysia Nikitiuk on the set of Lucky Girl.
people, and saving others through genocide. There’s been a huge increase in interest in Ukrainian culture. How would you describe the state of Ukrainian films before the war?
We had a powerful bunch of directors and screenwriters coming through – Valentin Vasyanovitch, Nariman Aliev, Antonio Lukic, Marina Stepanska, and others. I could name 20 people who made their first features. They’ve painted a painful picture of the reality. Some have asked why it’s so tragic, why it’s not funnier. It was opposite to state propaganda which was taken from Russia. We were talking about painful and troublesome topics, mental traumas, and war. EF
Marysia Nikitiuk graduated from Kyiv Karpenko-Karyi National University. She has been active as a scriptwriter since 2013. In 2014 Marysia started to shoot her own films as a director. Her first feature film When the Trees Fall premiered at 68th International Berlin Film Festival in the Panorama section in 2018. In 2019 the film Evge by Nariman Aliev, which Marysia co-wrote, premiered at Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. Selected filmography as a director Lucky Girl (in postproduction) 2022 When the Trees Fall 2018 Rabies (short) 2016 Mandragora (short) 2016 UKRAINIAN FILM
Stand Hom for the
up meland Filipp Kruusvall discusses the war from the frontline, and the cultural war with renowned Ukrainian filmmakers Serhiy Bukovsky and Mykola Bazarkin. By Filipp Kruusvall Photos by Birgit Püve and Aliona Penzii
Photos by Tetiana Buialo
erhiy Bukovsky is a famous Ukrainian director. During his film career Bukovsky made approximately 40 documentaries. Some of them received awards and premiered at prestigious international film festivals like DOK Leipzig, Krakow Film Festival, Visions du Réel, IDFA, etc. Mykola Bazarkin represents the new generation of Ukrainian cinema. He has edited more than 18 documentaries. He has also been involved in editing the famous TV series Servant of the People, where Volodymyr Zelenskyy had the leading role. Bazarkin is also the programme director of the film festival Kinosaray.
First, I would like to ask what the situation of Ukrainian cinema was before the war? As I know, the Ukrainian State Film Agency was established in 2011. Its funding was remarkably increased after 2014. Many new talented filmmakers are active at co-production forums and festivals. Documentary The Earth Is Blue as an Orange by Irina Tsylik won the Directing Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, for example.
Serhiy Bukovsky: I want to immediately, for clarity, remark that the war in my country has been going on for eight years. And we received reports about shelling and deaths in the Donbas every day. This is an important detail. Through this prism, it is easier to understand the content features of Ukrainian cinema. Despite all the difficulties of the time, cinema crawled out of the deep hole of the 90s. With great difficulty, but crawled out. A new generation of filmmakers
From the beginning of the war Ukrainian filmmakers are documenting the events.
appeared, very talented and determined, working in a contemporary way. Yes, probably the number of new auteur films per year for such a big country as Ukraine was not too large, but the overall trend was positive. And this applies to both documentary and feature films. Mykola Bazarkin: The Maidan also known as the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 gave a strong boost to filmmakers. People went out and started filming; there was so much life and events happening. Most of the new generation of documentary makers began to work during the Maidan. For many, it was the starting point of their debut film. Yes, the Cinema Foundation managed to increase
its funding, and many debutants began to receive support. The quality of cinema gradually began to rise. There were a lot of interesting new films and authors. Gradually Ukraine became an integral part of the international film market. What are Ukrainian filmmakers doing now? How many of them went to the frontline?
Serhiy Bukovsky: Many are filming the war. And this, as far as I know, is a personal initiative of my colleagues. Mostly they are cinematographers or photographers. Serezha Mikhalchuk, for example, an outstanding cameraman, shoots photo reports. Sasha Glyadelov photographer, Andrey Lisetsky director of photography, Yulia Gontaruk director… Mykola Bazarkin: On April 1st, a man I knew well, we have travelled together, died. He joined the territorial defence during the first days of the war. He has two daughters... Well-known photographer Maks Levin was killed. We used his excellent material from Ilovaisk in our film The War of Chimeras. From the beginning of the war, he was documenting the events, and near Irpin, he was killed. And actor Pasha Lee, a young guy, 33 years old, had signed up for Ukraine’s territorial defence force in the first days of the war and was killed on the outskirts of Kyiv.
But otherwise, for example, drone specialists have switched from commercial projects to military service to correct artillery fire. And the studios that owned the drones have made them available to the military. The rest are involved in volunteering and distributing humanitarian aid. How has war interrupted your creative plans?
Mykola Bazarkin: I worked on a new hybrid project by Serhiy Lysenko, Say Ukraine. It was a film based on true events, and the life and work of volunteers in Ukraine. All the material was filmed in the winter, and now we just wanted to film a few more shots for the optimistic finale. We were waiting for Spring when na-
Many are filming the war. And this, as far as I know, is a personal initiative of my colleagues. Mostly they are cinematographers or photographers. ture would flourish. On February 23rd, we had our first day of editing, and we put together the first three minutes. The next day the war began. Serhiy is now volunteering and filming the war, so the project is, for obvious reasons, pending. When the war ends, we will continue to work, but the film will probably have another end, of course. The bad thing is that public funding for films has been frozen, and many productions have been left unfinished. Is there a general strategy for capturing what is happening, or does everyone do what they can? Is there any central government support?
Serhiy Bukovsky: If, for example, a state-owned documentary film studio existed, it would work in full mode, and its cameramen would film and chronicle 24 hours a
day. As it was during World War II, 80 years ago. I have worked in that studio, and I remember those frontline cameramen who survived the war and were our colleagues. These men were amazing. All without exception. Today, this task is performed by television. Both local and international. Well, and there’s amateur footage from our military. I have no doubt that this video narrative from mobile phones will soon be used for cinema. This experience would undoubtedly influence the cinema’s visual language also after the war. It also includes the interception of telephone conversations of enemy “warriors” with their family members. This is also priceless material, no matter how strange it UKRAINIAN FILM
DOCS ble experience for cameramen. Still, it is crucial to record what is happening. On the financial side, we have to manage on our own, which is, of course, very difficult because there is no income. We have also rented cameras and other equipment. But we do not complain; the most important thing at the moment is to support the Ukrainian army. I would also mention that DocuDays is active in coordinating the help to the Ukrainian film industry. Also, Babylon ’13, an association of independent filmmakers, formed as early as during the Maidan. There are several YouTube channels adding short documentary clips and movies: Ukrainer, Freefilmers, Заборона, etc. Are there any new initiatives related to cinema in Ukraine? For example, I heard that the newly-formed Ukrainian Producers’ Association announced its first seven projects.
may sound, for future reflection in cinema. Such a monstrous anthology of the beasts of Russia. Probably I shouldn’t, but I can’t restrain myself; I must mention how shocking it was to discover that the most brutal soldiers around Kyiv were from Russian Far East, near the border of Mongolia, it’s around 6000 kilometres from Ukraine. The surviving residents of Bucha, Borodyanka, and other northwestern suburbs of Kyiv said that militaries from the poor and remote Russian region Buryatia were especially atrocious. Of course, envy drives you crazy when there are dishwashers, iPads, home cinema systems, etc., in the homes of Ukrainians. And they, the great liberators, have never seen even a regular toilet in their lives… The suburbs of Kyiv were a really nice place that looked like any other Central-European town. But now, everything stands in ruins. A terrible scene... Okay, I exhale the hatred... let’s move on. Mykola Bazarkin: Our group of friends has put together a few groups of cameramen who are filming what is happening in Ukraine. Some of them have found interesting characters they would like to follow for a longer period of time. But some cinematographers initially took the camera, but a few weeks later, they dropped it to change it for a firearm because they felt that defending the country was more important at the moment. I disagree with this, because I think it is extremely important to record what is happening. Our collective of Ukrainian Filmmakers (directors, DoP’s, editors, post-production specialists, producers and drivers) is called Kinodopomoha. Dopomoha means “help” in Ukrainian. We are engaged in storing, structuring, organizing and processing the footage from the front line that is sent to us. I’m responsible for the editing. We publish materials so that news channels can use the footage promptly. And we also share it on the Youtube channel. These are so-called microdocumentaries with a certain plot. Of course, the horrors of war are a terri-
According to director Serhiy Bukovsky, many of his Ukrainian colleagues and also his students are filming the war.
Serhiy Bukovsky: I know about the initiative of this group, and I know many of them personally. I’m discussing plans with them, and perhaps some of my students will join the project. What I know for sure is the Docudays International Film Festival initiative. They are filming an encyclopaedia of war. Now they are looking for volunteers who can archive the incoming video material. This is a very wise initiative. Nothing should be lost. Not a single second of the chronicles of the war.
My vision is that we will win because we believe in victory. If you believe, you can do more. How do you look at the current film festivals and events in Europe? Is it even possible to watch movies like everything is fine now? Mykola Bazarkin represents the new generation of Ukrainian cinema. He has also been involved in editing the famous TV series Servant of the People, where Volodymyr Zelenskyy had the leading role.
Serhiy Bukovsky: Well, why not? Recently I watched Coda and Drive My Car with my family. If you are talking about Russian cinema, then it is simply immoral to watch and show their films at festivals. This means being on the same side with monsters, bandits, rapists, and thieves. And it doesn’t matter at all whether these are films by Sokurov’s students or anyone else. The good news is that this year the Krakow Film Festival has included the prestigious national competition of our festival, Docudays, in its program. We are grateful. There are four films as far as I know. Among the films, there’s, for example, the feature-length documentary Plai. A Mountain Path by Eva Dzhyshyashvili, the student and graduate of my film program. It’s a poetic film about the life of peasants in the rural Carpathian mountains. I’m proud that I have been involved in that film. Mykola Bazarkin: As early as 2015, I promised myself that I would not watch any more Russian films until Crimea was returned. Of course, having been born in the Soviet Union, I grew up on these Soviet and Russian films. But I promised not to look any further. I´m also a program director at Kinosaray film festival. It´s located in a small farm. Families with children come there. We choose positive films, and we also have a kids’ programme. This farm is located in the Chernihiv region, and was occupied for some time during the current war. We still want to go on with this festival in June because people need to meet, discuss, and watch films. We do not want to change the concept. Even under the current circumstances, people need something positive. But of course, I am against Russian films. Apart from the war on the front, there is now a cultural war, and I see it that way. Thank God that victory is more on our side right now. People living in Ukraine began to understand what Ukrainian culture is. My wife is a film scientist and works at the Dovzhenko Center. She says that Ukrainian films are now in high demand, and there is a lot of interest in archival cinema. They are invited to festivals, and that is a very positive change. I am not saying that everyone should swear they will never watch Russian films, but while the war is going on, I´m standing for a boycott. I am Evelin Penttilä not Russophobic or xenophobic, but I have travelled
a lot in the world and also in Russia. If Russia was a developed and leading country, I would be a fan of Russia and set it as an example. But unfortunately, they have opted for regression in terms of civilization. I don’t want to be part of a world that is going back to the Middle Ages. What films should be made now? What is most important?
Serhiy Bukovsky: I’m not an oracle. I don’t know. There will soon be decision-makers who say what to film and what to fund. I guess documentaries will rocket. This genre always reacts quickly to current events in life. Also, in feature films, the theme of war becomes the main one. In many cases, this will all be rather superficial, declarative. It will take decades for a deeper artistic understanding of this subject. Do you continue to mentor and teach your students?
Serhiy Bukovsky: We continue to meet with our students online. Many are filming what is happening right now. Hopefully, soon we will collect all the filmed material into one extensive war anthology. What is the most important, necessary help that Estonia could do for Ukrainian filmmakers now?
Serhiy Bukovsky: You have done so much. Really! Estonia has helped with weapons. And then, after the war, we come up with something and work together. Mykola Bazarkin: Yes, we have received help from Estonia. Recently, an ambulance arrived from Estonia, and it also brought the necessary filming equipment we needed here. What is the morale like of Ukrainians and filmmakers now? What gives you the most strength and meaning right now to live and fight?
Mykola Bazarkin: My vision is that we will win because we believe in victory. If you believe, you can do more. Serhiy Bukovsky: It is a very tough experience for all of us. A bitter experience. Film director Otar Ioseliani put it nicely. He said - you can’t win the myth! Ukrainian Cossacks with sabres and “oseledets” (specific haircuts) on their heads are not only tourist archetypes. This is our historical memory, which wakes up in my nation in difficult times. They may speak different languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Tatar, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Polish, and Romanian, but like one, they all stand up for their homeland and nation. Ukraine has a colossal experience of historical survival. For example, let’s remember the great famine, the Holodomor of 1932–1933. But we have tremendous willpower and aspiration for our dream! Glory to Ukraine! EF UKRAINIAN FILM