Read more of Ulyana Dovgan’s film criticism here.
This year, Docudays UA, the most prominent Ukrainian festival of creative documentary film is set to begin on March 23rd and will continue onward until March 30th. Every year the festival engages in a dialogue with the public with the goal of putting a stop to our increasing inequality and fighting back against human rights crimes. Poverty, inequality and injustice are all too often the breeding ground for instability and constitute real threats to peace. The main theme of the festival is the idea of equality. Tackling myths and misinformation in our society is an important part of XV Docudays UA.
Documentary features from different countries will be presented as part of both the competition and non-competition programs. The competition program consists of the categories of DOCU/UKRAINE, DOCU/SHORT and DOCU/WORLD with separate winners to be chosen in the DOCU/RIGHTS and DOCU/LIFE categories. For the first time in the history of the festival, feature films will be presented for nomination in the DOCU/UKRAINE. Both the DOCU/SHORT and DOCU/WORLD categories will each include 12 films.
Notable selections this year include the Polish film “Hogo” directed by Wojciech Klimala — this feature deals with the opportunity to establish priorities with respect to the pedagogic processes with the absence of religious characteristics and patriotic, social, national and human values of society. “Thank You for the Rain” directed by Julia Dahr, shows us that five years ago a Kenyan farmer started to use his camera to capture the life of his family, his village and to document the ravages of climate change. When a violent freak storm throws him and a Norwegian filmmaker together we see the farmer transform from a father into a community leader and an activist on the global stage. Than there is “Death of a Child” which was directed by Lasse Barkfors and Frida Barkfors — a harrowing exploration of the lives of parents who have caused their own children’s deaths.
Among the notable foreign features presented this year is the film of documentary-maker Alina Gorlova “No Obvious Sign”, which is about a women who returns from the war. The film raises important and rarely asked questions of the need to provide assistance during the post-war and reintegration periods. The director is known for her previous feature picture “Kholodny Yar. Intro” — which was presented to the audience during the Odessa International Film Festival of 2016 — about a mysterious place in the heart of Ukraine, that is a center for the Ukrainian insurgency against the Russian invasion. All of Gorlova’s features are composes of genuine and very personal stories from its characters.
Personally, this critic wishes to draw the reader’s attention to the French feature “Tell Me About the Stars” directed by Jonathan Millet — which follows a group of fifteen scientists headed for Antarctica where they’ll spend 13 months, during which time they will study the skies from likely the best place on the planet to do so. The film diary of one of the team members reveals glittering plains of snow and black nights full of stars, as well as isolation, frustration, and the longing to escape back to civilization. It interesting to note that Millet moved into documentary film making after first studying philosophy. Millet’s work is characterized by subjective views that reveal links between individuals living in a particular society.
In the last few years, the Ukrainian film industry has grown by leaps and bounds, but critical successes of the past few years have served to demonstrate that the future of Ukrainian cinema belongs to the documentary film. Ukraine has been fractured by war, and everything that comes with war and this is an unavoidable fact for Ukrainian cinematography. Audiences interested in film need to pay more attention to the DOCU/UKRAINE category, among whose entries are Uliana Osovska’s “Almost 10,000 Voters” which deals with the shift of the Ukrainian people to continue pursuing European values. Igor Minaiev’s “The Cacophony of the Donbas” deals with failed expectations and the very sad outcome of Eastern Ukraine. Masha Kondakova’s “Women in War” is about three women who search for peace in the midst of war time (Kondakova is known for her short feature “Lystopad”, which won the Best Short prize at the 2014 OIFF). “The First Company” is directed by Yaroslav Pilunsky, Yulia Shashkova, Yuriy Gruzinov — which follows a group of Maidan activists in the midst of the 2014 revolution.
All of the films will be screened in Kyiv’s beloved Zhovten Cinema as well as in the Cinema “Ukraine”. The program opening film is “A Woman Captured“, the Hungarian docmaker Bernadett Tuza-Ritter’s debut feature, It is a perfect selection to innugurate a film festival with a focus on humanitarianism and women’s rights.