Kinofest NYC- Kinofilm Project partnered with The Ukrainian Museum in New York City to create Kinofest NYC- an inaugural film festival celebrating independent cinema from Ukraine and other post-Soviet bloc countries. Over the weekend of February 25-28th, a selection of feature and short films were screened to provide a glimpse of developing cinematic talent from countries of the former Soviet Union.

Kinofest NYC Festival website: here

Katyn- In his latest film, renowned Polish film director Andrzej Wajda tackles the most painful subject of his generation- the systematic killing of over 15,000 Polish military officers carried out by Stalin's Red Army in 1940. Wajda delivers from the perspective of the victims' relatives a dramatisation of one of the last crimes of World War II to be acknowledged. Wajda's film is a powerful memorial to the events at Katyn and also to the correcting of untruths about Katyn that were propagated for a generation. His film is not merely about the crime itself, but is also about how the postwar Polish state sought survival by accepting what most knew to be a lie about the mass murder. Katyn was nominated for a 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, this Philadelphia premier at The International House presents the film in its original 35mm format (2007, 120min)

Directed by: Andrzej Wajda film trailer: here

After four decades, the flag returns

The Singing Revolution- In 1999, husband and wife Jim and Maureen Tusty moved from the US to Estonia to teach filmmaking courses in Tallinn. Jim was an American of Estonian ancestry, and this connection brought him and Maureen to the land of his forefathers. While teaching at university, they learned of the movement called the singing revolution, which propelled Estonia and the other Baltic states to independence in 1991. In 2004, the Tustys began shooting video and researching archival footage- after 2 years of additional editing, their film The Singing Revolution had its worldwide premier in 2006 in Tallinn, Estonia. (2006, 75 min)

Director's website: here film trailer: here

Agent Wiesler eavesdrops onto an 'enemy of the state'

The Lives of Others- The feature debut of writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, this film tells the story of the unravelling of East German Stasi Agent Wiesler, a monitor of the cultural scene of East Berlin. Donnersmarck's inspiration for his film comes from the ties his parents had to East Germany, and he has described that on visits there as a child before the Berlin Wall fell, he could sense the fear they had as subjects of the state. Based on those experiences, Donnersmarck envi- sioned a story "of a person sitting in a depressing room with earphones on his head, listening in to what he supposes is the enemy of the state, and what he hears is beautiful music that touches his soul." Donnersmarck's resulting film won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. (2006, 129min)

Florian Donnersmarck's bio: here film trailer: here

Vanya in pursuit

The Italian- This is the story of six-year-old Vanya, who runs away from a Russian orphanage to find his mother, rather than being sold to a wealthy couple in Italy. It is described by some as a tale by Charles Dickens, adapted by Gogol, and directed by Roberto Rossellini: inexorable, reformist, devastating, with its sentiment balanced by an overwhelming compassion. This film is the impressive debut of director Andrei Kravchuk, who gave up his masters in mathematics to study film at the St Petersburg Institute of Cinema and Television in the early 1990s. Kravchuk had been making television documentaries for three years when the Russian economy collapsed in 1999, putting thousands of children on the streets. "The Italian" is based on a true story Kravchuk came across through his work during this time, thus his film has the look of an expressively shot documentary, but with the feel of a folktale with a slight gauze on the lens and an eerie soundtrack. (2005, 90min)

Andrei Kravchuk's bio: here The Italian trailer: here

Gogol introduces his girlfriend to his parents

The Namesake- Mira Nair's film tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a first generation American whose namesake is Nikolai Gogol, the 19th century writer regarded as a pillar of classic Russian literature. The film follows the life of Gogol Ganguli, who struggles to find himself and his identity, whether as a rebellious pot-smoking teenager, a tourist in his parents' homeland, the fiance of a lily-white suburbanite co-ed, the husband of a Franco-Bengali party girl, or as a dutiful son in the face of a family tragedy. But his biggest struggle is reconciling himself with his given name. The film The Namesake is an adaptation of the eponymous novel by New York based Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, and is being screened to mark the 200th anniversary of Nikolai Gogol's birth. (2007, 91min)

"The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise, and that to give
him any other name was quite out of the question..." -- Nikolai Gogol, "The Overcoat", 1842

Director's website: here The Namesake trailer: here

The Soviet Story- The Philadelphia premier of Edvins Snore's compelling feature documentary, a Latvian film described by The Economist as "gripping, audacious and uncompromising" in its presentation of Soviet history. The Soviet Story had its world premier in the European Parliament in Brussels and has attracted both acclaim and controversy. Raising uncomfortable questions about past and present realpolitik, it includes commentary from British historian Norman Davies and unsettling footage of speeches made by Irish playwright and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw. This film provides a perspective to 20th century European history that is rarely considered. (2008, 85min)

Directed by: Edvins Snore Director's website: here

Providing a different perspective to the
Soviet story

Ukrainian Film Shorts II- The Philadelphia premier of film shorts directed by four promising young Ukrainian filmmakers. This program's first film short was Vitaly Potrukh's Law, a dramatic episode from Ukraine's ill-fated War of Independence in 1917-1920. Second, Maryna Vroda's Rain, a touching portrait of an elderly couple. Ihor Pysmenny's Thirteenth Kilometer- a story about the life of a daydreaming stationmaster in the provinces. Finally, Dmytro Sukholytky-Sobchuk's Adolescence presented a coming of age vignette depicting a boy leaving home. Films were introduced by guest presenter Dr. Yuri Shevchuk, lecturer of Ukrainian Language and Film at Columbia University.

Yuri Shevchuk: Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University

Independence fighters on horseback travel the snowy landscape in Vitaly Potrukh's film 'Law'

Finding their roots, in red dancing boots!

Folk!- The Philadelphia premier of the documentary feature film that follows the unique, high-flying 'underground' world of traditional Ukrainian folk dancing in North America. An often tongue-in-cheek behind the scenes look at this art form- featuring Ukrainian dance troupes from New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Kyiv- Folk explores what it is like to grow up in the US as part of a tight knit East European ethnic community, and how people keep ties to their heritage and culture in an increasingly modern world. Director and producer Roxy Toporowych and cinematographer Jeremy McCarter were present at this screening and led a Q&A following the film screening. (2007, 73min)

Directed by: Roxy Toporowych Director's website: here

Orthodox monks take their place in the Macedonian countryside

Before the Rain- The first feature film made in the newly independent Republic of Macedonia, Before The Rain crosscuts the stories of an Orthodox Christian monk, a London based photo agent, and a native Macedonian war photographer and paints a portrait of simmering ethnic and religious conflict which is about to reach its boiling point. Directed by Milcho Manchevski in 1994 during the time of strife of war-torn Yugoslavia, this gripping triptych of love and violence is also a timeless account of the loss of pastoral innocence. Before the Rain received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1995, and remains one of recent cinema's most poetic evocations of the futility of war. (1994, 113min)

Directed by: Milcho Manchevski Director's website: here

Maya Deren in her film

Meshes of the Afternoon - A non-narrative work which is one of the most influential works in American experimental cinema. Directed by Deren with her husband cinematographer Alexander Hammid, the film established the independent avant-garde movement in film in the US. Born in Kyiv in 1917, Maya Deren came to the USA in the 1920's as Eleanora Derenkowsky- a brilliant filmmaker and theorist, she worked completely outside the commercial film industry, making her own inner experience the center of her films. (1943, 15min, 16mm)

Directed by: Maya Deren Maya Deren bio: here

Mikhail Kaufman positions himself for the best possible shot

Man With the Movie Camera - This stunning documentary remains a perfect distillation of the sense of urban existence. Composed of footage from Kyiv, Moscow and Odesa, the film shows everyday people at work and at play, from dawn to dusk, interacting with the machinery of modern life. Produced by Dziga Vertov at Kyiv Film Studios (VUFKU) in 1929, the film serves as a reminder that he is one of the greatest pioneer filmmakers. In the style of other 'city symphony' films of the 1920's, events are arranged to simulate the passage of a single day through a deliberate sequencing of events.

Directed by: Dziga Vertov Dziga Vertov bio: here

Filmmakers Olha Onyshko and Sarah Farhat visited Philadelphia in May 2008 to discuss their film Land of Dilemmas. This feature length docu- mentary is currently in production, and brings to focus the recollections of four survivors of World War II having different ethnic and religious backgrounds: Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian. The subjects of the film lived in Galicia/Halychyna in the 1940's, and tell stories of moral dilemmas forced upon them at a time when mere wartime survival was at stake. Sixty years on, Olha and Sarah explore their choices, and try to answer the question of why some people risked everything to save the lives not only of strangers, but also of members of an ethnic or religious group perceived to be 'the enemy'. It is the filmmakers' hope that the exploration of these moral dilemmas, and the decisions people made when facing them, can serve as a basis of a constructive dialogue between these three communities which still feel the burden of the past.

Website: Additional Info: here

Olha Onyshko and Sarah Farhat explaining elements of their film

Radiophobia - "a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of radiation." A group of survivors return to Chernobyl's radioactive zone to reconcile their past with the ruins of the present. In the zone, they also meet many of the zone's peculiar inhabitants, and a remaining witness to the disaster- the city of Pripyat, which fights to survive in spite of the radiation, the fear, and forgetfulness. (2006, 56min)

Directed by: Julio Soto Gurpide Trailer: here Website:

Heading into the reactor

Have You Ever Heard About Vukovar? This short film is a drama with comedic elements about self-acceptance and coming to terms with the past. It is the story of Tim, a veteran from the Iraq war, and Davor, a Croatian refuge who is driving Tim to a career day in his former high school. The two different personalities will find out that they've experienced the same issues and problems after living through very traumatic events. (2007, 15min)

Directed by: Paolo Borraccetti Trailer: here Website:

Tim hears about Vukovar

Ukrainian Film Shorts I - As part of Kinofilm Project's ongoing collaboration with the Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University, this film night was devoted to emerging Ukrainian filmmakers. Club founder Yuri Shevchuk led the program and presented a number of recently completed Ukrainian short films:

Bozhychi - A look at the revival of the folk song tradition that is capturing the imagination of an increasing number of young people. The Bozhychi, a singing group from Kyiv, visit different parts of the country to unearth and record songs from central and eastern Ukraine to the Carpathian mountains. (2006, 23min)

Directed by: Anastasia Kharchenko

Heaven - A tribute to Polina Raiko, an artist who lived all her life in a humble village home. Working ceaselessly and facing many lifelong hardships, it was only towards the end of her life that she discovered in herself a gift for painting, producing artwork that remains surprising, strange, and impossible to resist. (2006, 24min)

Directed by: Nadia Koshman

Stray Dog - A stray dog suddenly comes to Petrovych's household and quickly precipitates a series of mini-crises, bringing out both good and bad in people. As this tragicomic story unfolds, the differences between the dog and its human counterparts become increasingly unclear... (2007, 28min)

Directed by: Valery Yambursky

The Taxi Driver - An exquisitely stylized film about an unrequited love at first sight of a taxi driver who gives a lift to a beautiful and naive girl on her way to college. Rejected, he desperately seeks ways to win her heart. This comical story develops through the breathtaking camera work of Andrii Lysetskyi. (2006, 21min)

Directed by: Roman Bondarchuk

Good Bye, Lenin!- East Berlin, 1989. Alex Kerner is on a protest march when his staunch socialist mother sees him, has a heart attack and falls into a coma for eight months. Just enough time for the Berlin Wall to fall and the world to change completely for East Berliners. When she awakes, to save his mother from suffering a second attack, Alex transforms the family apartment into an island of the past, a kind of socialist-era museum where his mother is lovingly duped into believing that nothing has changed. Alex tries to hide the truth from her - Coca Cola, satellite TV, Burger King - even staging fake news programmes... does his scheme work? (2003, 121min)

Directed by: Wolfgang Becker
Trailer: here

Footage from the streets
of Kyiv

The Orange Chronicles - A powerfully moving and unique examination of Ukraine's Orange Revolution from the perspective of an intrepid American filmmaker. Director Damian Kolodiy criss-crosses the country in the weeks before the remarkable events of 2004 as a volunteer International Election Observer, recording the build-up to what turns out to be one of the most astonishing bloodless political turnarounds in recent history. (2006, 98min)

Directed by: Damian Kolodiy
Trailer: here

Ukrainian Film Festival
Dr. Yuri Shevchuk guest hosted Philadelphia's first Ukrainian Film Festival in early 2007. A lecturer at Columbia University, Yuri presented a number of short films, features and documentaries that were filmed and produced in Ukraine, a country still transitioning from its Soviet past. Films shown during the festival demonstrated that the country is beginning to develop it's own cinematic voice through an emerging home grown filmmaking community. While this nascent community faces chronic lack of financing, technology and governmental support, the films screened were evidence that these filmmakers continue to press on, and produce works that tell the compelling story of the Ukrainian experience.

Discussing the films after the festival
at the drinks reception

Award winning films screened at the Festival:

Title Directed by Previous Awards Received
The Shooting Gallery Taras Tomenko Grand Prize for Best Short Film, 51st Berlin IFF, 2001
Wayfarers Ihor Strembitsky Golden Palm Award for Best Short Film, Cannes IFF, 2005
Streetcar #9 Stepan Koval Jury Prize Silver Bear, 53rd Berlin IFF, 2003
The Play for Three Actors Oleksandr Shmyhun Viewers award for Best Short Animation, Sao Paolo IFF, 2005

Other films of interest:

Title Directed by Title Directed by
KOLKY Natasha Mikhalchuk Balloonist Lesya Kalynska
Mertvi Pivni Andrij Parekh The Whisperer Andrea Odezynska