Photo: Aleksander Glyadyelov (c)
‘Documenting Ukraine’: four days of cinema, performance and debate in London
The British Ukrainian Society supported ‘Documenting Ukraine’, a four-day umbrella festival held in May 2015 in London that brought together Ukraine’s leading names in documentary cinema and theatre.
Organised by Open City Docs, Frontline Club and GRAD, the festival consisted of two sections. ‘Documenting Ukraine: Theatre’ opened the festival on 14-15 May, followed by ‘Documenting Ukraine: Cinema’ on 16-17 May.
The festival’s first section saw two live performances at GRAD. ‘Anyone Can Be Saint Nikolai’ is a multimedia solo performance by German director Georg Genoux, which offers an insight into the experiences of those most affected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. ‘Can I Or Can’t I’, the latest work by Ukrainian playwright Natalia Vorozhbit, is an autobiographical play about the recent political turmoil in Ukraine.
The festival’s second section presented nine film screenings with Q&A discussions and brought together Ukrainian and British filmmakers and experts to explore the intersection of cinema, culture and politics in Ukraine. The films and discussions examined the Maidan protests that brought about the downfall of President Yanukovych’s regime in 2014, the conflict in Donbass, as well as reflecting on Ukraine’s longer history and relationship with the Soviet Union.
The organisers were delighted to give their audiences the chance to see a rich programme of Ukrainian documentaries rarely presented in UK cinemas: from a live performance of Dziga Vertov’s silent 1928 documentary ‘The Eleventh Year’, to a work-in-progress screening of Askold Kurov’s film about the imprisonment of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.
Please see the festival programme in more detail below.
Thursday 14 May
19:00-21:00 – ‘Anyone Can Be Saint Nikolai’ by Georg Genoux
This multimedia solo performance offers an insight into the experiences of those most affected by the war in eastern Ukraine. Created and performed by German director Georg Genoux, the performance incorporates documentary video footage and audio interviews to tell the story of the author’s time as a volunteer in the Eastern Ukrainian city of Mykolaivka. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion.
Friday 15 May
19:00-21:30 – ‘Can I or Can’t I’ by Natalia Vorozhbit
The latest work-in-progress play by Ukraine’s leading playwright of the New Drama movement, Natalia Vorozhbit. Taking the form of an autobiographical monologue, this staged reading of the play explores the recent political turmoil in Ukraine, reflecting upon what she knew about herself before the protests started – and what she continues to learn as the conflict goes on.
As in her celebrated work ‘Maidan: Voices of the Uprising’ which showed at Royal Court Theatre in 2014, ‘Can I or Can’t I’ applies Vorozhbit’s insightful and affecting style to a personal investigation of her own experience of life and war in Ukraine. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion and a reception.
Saturday 16 May
12:00 – ‘Ukraine: When the Countdown Began’ (90′) – the UK premiere
A complex and comprehensively sourced documentary about the emergence of an independent Ukraine from the ruins of the USSR in 1991 featuring interviews with major political figures and experts including Leonid Kravchuk, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Gennadiy Burbulis, Levko Lukyanenko and James Baker.
14:00 – ‘Release Oleg Sentsov’ (20′), with Agnieszka Holland in person and Askold Kurov via Skype – the UK premiere
A work-in-progress screening of Askold Kurov’s documentary about Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov facing 20 years in a Russian prison, followed by a discussion about the campaign to end his illegal detention. Screening and discussion in partnership with the European Film Academy.
15:00 – Double-bill: ‘Tomorrow is a Holiday’ (26′) & ‘Mum Died on Saturday in the Kitchen’ (52’), followed by a discussion with Agnieszka Holland, JJ Gurga (TBC) – the UK premieres
Serhiy Bukovsky’s subversive 1987 documentary about a Soviet factory, followed by Maxym Vasyanovych’s tender portrait of his family in the Ukrainian SSR. Followed by a Q&A exploring Ukrainian cinema since 1986.
17:45 – Maidan Shorts (26’), followed by a discussion – the UK premieres
A special screening of shorts and clips reflecting on the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine, followed by a discussion with filmmakers and academics Roman Bondarchuk, Darya Bassel, Serhiy Buchovsky, Rory Finnin and Olesya Khromeychuk.
19:30 – A reception and sale of photographic prints by Aleksander Glyadelov
A selection of compelling photographs by Aleksander Glyadelov from Maidan a year ago and from the conflict in the East of Ukraine in 2015.
Sunday 17 May
14:00 – ‘The Donetsk People’s Republic, Or The Curious Tale of the Handmade Country’ (53’), followed by a discussion – the UK premiere
This is an unfiltered, fly-on-the-wall account of how the Donetsk People’s Republic came into being. Filmed over six weeks from April to May 2014 with astonishing access, it follows the stories of a group of revolutionists from lover police ranks to governmental officials. Followed by a discussion with Anthony Butts, Nataliya Gumenyuk, Andrew Wilson, Oliver Carroll (TBC) and Orysia Lutsevych.
16:30 – ‘Crepuscule’ (61′), followed by Q&A with director Valentyn Vasyanovych & Andy Hunder – the UK premiere
Valentyn Vasyanovych to present his acclaimed documentary about a mother and son living in a remote province of Ukraine.
18:30 – ‘The Eleventh Year’ (52′), with an introduction by Dr Phil Cavendish – an international premiere of live musical accompaniment
Dziga Vertov’s silent documentary, digitally re-mastered with a live musical accompaniment performed by Anton Baibakov, including the UK premiere of the film’s recently discovered animation trailer. Ends 19:45.
‘Documenting Ukraine’ is supported by: