On May 9th, the “86” Festival of Film and Urbanism is slated to begin, opening for the fifth year in a row one of the most innovative independent events in the contemporary Ukrainian arts calender. The location of the festival is perhaps the most interesting thing about it— the event is yearly in Slavutych — the youngest city in the country, which was built specifically to house the workers evacuated from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the wake of the disastrous meltdown.
The festival program combines documentary films, events dedicated to urbanism and contemporary music in accordance with the year’s primary theme — “Something in the air”. The festival founders claim is that the essence of the festival “is those things that resist being captured and described. It is about what’s hidden and perhaps the most important trope of all: love at first sight”. The curators of this Urbanist festival lovingly hand-picked special content for this year’s festival, which has the radical potential to take you out of your mundane reality and to give your mind a good shake.
Here is our selection of the most promising festival events.
The “Fonko” project is an opportunity to travel through the African continent to discover unknown treasures – modern African music made with the help of computers and new technologies, which combine American and European tools and patterns with a local spirit. The project is organized by Göran Hugo Olsson — a leading documentary director in Sweden. The subject of Olsson’s work has always been the African continent and people. It is surely a significant achievement for “86” that Olsson will travel to Slavutych to present his film and his retrospective. Olsson will also introduce and comment on the films that influenced his vision as a director: Barbara Kopple’s “Harlan County, USA” and Andy Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls”.
Your guide in this wild territory will be Fela Kuti, one of the continent’s greatest musicians and political activists.
Palm of the North
The main competition of the festival, the “Palm of the North”, is for the first time international this year. It consists of 12 short films – 5 Ukrainian and 7 foreign, including “Junker” by Mikhail Gorobchuk, who won an award at Artdocheste-2017 for best documentary.
The Maribor Uprisings
“The Maribor Uprisings” is an experimental interactive documentary by Maple Razsa and Milton Guillén. Maribor is a prosperous industrial city in Slovenia where the protests were sparked at the extent of local corruption in government and spiraled into a massive protest movement in 2012. All the footage in the film was shot by activists in the street or police in a helicopter during the revolt. Using an interactive approach, directors give the audience an opportunity to decide how to participate in the movie, which line to choose and which protagonist to follow while story develops based on those choices. “The Maribor Uprisings” resonate with the Arab Spring, Maidan and the Washington D.C. 2017 Women’s March which raise similar political questions.
In Praise of Nothing
“In Praise of Nothing” — is a poetic and ironic work by Serbian director Boris Mitić, a story about literally nothing, which being tired of being continually misunderstood, runs away from home and travels around the world. Over the seas, mountains, valleys, and exotic far away lands we discover banal and comic moments that become fresh and unique. The footage weirdly is complemented by a philosophical and sarcastic monologue narrated by the creaky voice of Iggy Pop. The film score was written by cabaret grandmasters Pascal Comelade and the Tiger Lillies.
Innocent Saturday and Mariia Kuvshynova
One of the jury members of the “Palm of the North”, the journalist and critic Mariia Kuvshynova will lead a discussion on “Man at the End of Utopia” and present her new book “Alexander Mindadze: From the Soviet to the Post-Soviet. ” Also, she will present “Innocent Saturday” — a feature film by Mindadze. The film focuses on the day that followed the Chernobyl explosion 32 year ago. The screening will take place on the saturday of 12 May.
The Italian artist Yuri Ancarani has completed a visually striking documentary about contemporary falconry rituals in Qatar. Viewers of this film will enjoy a meditative observation of ancient Arabian traditions in one of the richest country of the world, where wealthy sheikhs spend their weekends in the desert, sharing food and their passion for falcons. The film was awarded a Special Jury Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2016.
For the musical part of 86, the Mariupol art platform TU has invited some of the most progressive artists, with whom they had collaborated recently, to perform at the festival parties. Five highly explosive evenings are planed under the general theme of “Anomaly”. Futuristic techno sounds will pour over Slavutych and give it the maximum acceleration to slow down at the last “quiet” party of the festival – a party in the woods. In our experience the parties are typically awesome!
Something in the Kotlovan
The urban program at the festival was put this year into the hands of METASITU — an art group based in Kyiv and Athens, Greece. METASITU opens up new discursive lines by involving different actors in challenging theatrical productions involving spatial narratives. During the related architectural workshop, which will start before the festival, participants will create a temporary camp near the local pit known as a “kotlovan”. This work will be used to accommodate and entertain festivals goers.
Getting There/Take a Bike ride
The festival’s website offers useful information on how to get to Slavutych: by public or festival bus, train or car. The festival staff have figured out a way to turn the opening day of the event into a sports event: everyone can take part in a free bike ride from Chernihiv. The ride is about 55 km (3 hours) for those who want to enjoy a picturesque view of the lovely green forest on the way. Moreover, cycling is the most pleasant way to get to know the city, because Slavutych is the first city in Ukraine (unfortunately also the last) which was constructed with ready made cycle lanes. So discover modern film, urban culture and music in Slavutych and make you vacation in May truly original.
Olga Sidorushkina is film coordinator at the Green Theater in Odessa.